The Lawton City Council did the right thing last week when it voted to delay implementation of new fees regarding curbside trash collection and bulk pickup.
City staff had proposed a range of fees for various violations. Some of them include:
•A $4 relocation fee would be assessed to customer’s utility bills if their carts are not set outside an obstacle free area with no obstructions within 5 feet.
•The same $4 fee would be assessed if polycarts remain at the curb beyond the hours set in city code.
•Charging residents $7 if their polycarts are overloaded and the lid won’t close all the way.
•Assessing a $23 fee for anything placed outside the cart “or in a manner not authorized by city code.”
•Assessing a $10 per cubic yard fee to those who set out more than 4 cubic yards of bulk trash each month.
The council voted to delay the implementation of these fees until residents can be educated on the changes. That’s a smart move. Citizens should be given the opportunity to understand and comply with the new fees before they are assessed. That leads to less confusion for residents and fewer phone calls to city hall because residents don’t understand why they are in violation of new regulations.
Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren had a good suggestion about placing stickers on the cans — without penalty — telling residents exactly what they are doing wrong before new regulations go into effect. As Ward 3 Councilwoman Linda Chapman pointed out, Lawton is a transient community. New people come and go all the time and they may not be familiar with city policies. They should be given an opportunity to comply before being slapped with fines.
We still think some of the fees are a bit excessive, such as penalizing residents who leave their carts out past 8 p.m. on collection days. City officials need to realize that not everyone works 9-5 and is home in time to retrieve their polycarts from the street or happen to be out of town for a day. We realize leaving them in the street overnight is a hazard, particularly on heavily traveled residential streets, but some common sense should be used.
Another fee we disagree with is the one on closed lids. Residents who pile too much trash into their carts for the lids to close should be educated not to do so. But sometimes the wind in Oklahoma comes sweepin’ down the street and blows the lids off. Or, if that big cardboard box you collapsed leaves the lid open a couple of inches, is that a fine as well? Those residents should not be penalized for an event beyond their control or occasional minor instances. Again, common sense is called for.
We hope that the city, before it implements its campaign to educate residents on the new violations and fees, takes another look at the plan and makes some revisions.