MONONGAHELA – Monongahela council decided to ease up on a provision in a new lawn waste ordinance that could have put repeat offenders behind bars.
The proposed ordinance stipulates that residents who dispose of leaves, garden residue, shrubbery or tree trimmings and other lawn waste along with their regular trash will be subject to a range of fines. But council members agreed that imposing up to 90 days of prison time for a third offense is going too far.
“We have a lot of old people in this city,” said Mayor Bob Kepics during the council’s workshop meeting this week. “It takes time for them to adapt to change.”
Added Monongahela resident Chad DeSantis, “It is morally wrong to imprison someone for just throwing leaves and sticks in the garbage.”
Other council members were also uncomfortable with the imprisonment provision and asked Solicitor Todd Pappasergi to amend the ordinance.
Pappasergi said the amended ordinance will include a “longer and more progressive fine structure.” Offenders will receive a non-traffic citation, with fines ranging from $100 for a first offense to $1,000 for a fifth and subsequent offenses. Cases are filed at the magistrate’s office.
Monongahela’s code officer will have the discretion to offer a warning or file a first-offense citation for violators of the ordinance. Pappasergi said the city could risk losing grant money if it fails to follow regulations established by the state Department of Environmental Protection for disposal of lawn waste.
The DEP encourages homeowners to compost lawn waste and use it as mulch or a soil amendment. The city collects leaf waste at residents’ curbsides twice a month in October and November and during other dates if necessary. In addition, the city is establishing a drop-off program for leaf waste.
Following a second reading at the council’s regular meeting Wednesday, the board is expected to vote on the ordinance, as well as amended provisions of the city’s municipal solid waste ordinance and municipal waste hauler licensing ordinance.
In other business, Police Chief Brian Tempest announced that the Monongahela Police Department is extending its contract to provide service to New Eagle for an additional 10 years, pending final approval by the Monongahela council. New Eagle’s council already approved the agreement last week.