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Wednesday, August 20, 2014         

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Council sets fine for haste with big trash

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

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Putting bulky waste out on the sidewalk too early could result in a fine of up to $250 under a bill passed Wednesday by the City Council.

But Tim Steinberger, head of the city Department of Environmental Services, said the law likely will not be enforced until June.

That is because the bill stipulates the ordinance will not take effect until Jan. 1, and it will take about six months from then to establish rules, Steinberger said. The city is barred from starting the rule-making process, which will include public hearings, until the law takes effect, he said.

The bill, which is expected to be signed by acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell in the coming weeks, says residents cannot place bulky trash on the sidewalk until the evening before a scheduled monthly pickup as listed on the website opala.org.

The city picks up bulky trash from Oahu households once a month, including apartments and condominiums that must deal with nonbulky waste on their own.

Inspectors will first cite a violation and then issue fines on subsequent visits, Steinberger said.

The fine could be up to $250 per occurrence per month. That is less than the plan pushed by former Mayor Mufi Hannemann that called for a $500 fine per day.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who heads the Council Public Infrastructure Committee, said the penalty was reduced substantially because of concerns raised by owners of apartments and condominiums who argued that often the bulky items left in front of their properties are not of their doing.

"The concern is that it's not your stuff," Kobayashi said.

The city has hired three additional inspectors in the Environmental Services Department in anticipation of the law taking effect.

Kobayashi said the bill is necessary to address the problem of bulky items piling up along neighborhood sidewalks. "The problem has really gotten worse, especially where there are a lot of rentals."

Because of the transient nature of some renters, there are people moving all the time. "They leave their sofas and mattresses. It's making our city so ugly."

Steinberger said he would have preferred the bill require a daily penalty because it would have given property owners more incentive to remove items. This way, not only do the existing bulky items stay, but also, "The pile can continue to grow."

The inspectors are already issuing littering citations and have started a database. "That way we can see who the chronic violators are," Steinberger said.

Kevin Carney, vice president of EAH Housing, has testified against the bill. EAH Housing manages eight affordable rental apartment buildings in Hawaii, including Kukui Tower in Chinatown.

"That's a little better," Carney said of the lower fines. "We still don't like it but we can live with it."

Carney said sometimes haulers do not come on their scheduled days, and when that happens, the pile tends to grow mysteriously.

"The longer it stays, the more it multiplies," he said.

Steinberger said the city is aware of concerns raised by landowners that often a lot of their bulky trash is the result of nonresidents leaving their trash in the pile.

His office also has received complaints that bulky pickups do not always get the job done on scheduled days.

People should keep the bulky trash outside for several days until a crew from the city returns to pick it up, Steinberger said.

Derek Kauanoe, founder of the community-based online social network Moiliili Matters, said he hopes the new bill will succeed in helping reduce illegally dumped bulky trash.

With the backing of Kamehameha Schools, Moiliili Matters recently mailed 15,000 postcards to area residents informing them of when they can place their bulky items on the curb.

Kauanoe said the city could also issue such reminders by including them in water and electric bills.






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