Marion council rejects oridnance about grass clippings

The Marion City Council rejected at its meeting Sept. 16 a proposed ordinance that, if passed, would have made it unlawful for anyone to clog storm sewer drains with any kind of debris, including grass, leaves and more.

Prompted by the council to research the issue about a month ago, and following the signficant rainfall in July, City Administrator Doug Kjellin said he ?borrowed? an ordinance to address the issue.

?I would advise council to consider this (ordinance) before passing it,? he said.

Kjellin said an ordinance typically needs to have ?some sort of teeth in it,? which would involve a fine.

?At what point would the proof of who was responsible for blowing the grass into the street need to be established?? he asked.

He also asked if the council wants to take city court time to go through a series of small infractions or fine requirements.

Other questions, he said, included who would be authorized to write tickets, and would a tenant or landowner receive it?

The solution?

Kjellin said the best answer may be involving the general public.

?If (people) understand this is an issue, and let them know their cooperation would be greatly appreciated.?

Should the council decide to accept the ordinance, he said, some people might find it a ?little Draconian? in enforcement.

?If we could have cooperation in trying to keep grass in the yard and not in the middle of the street, it would assist (the city) in the future,? he said.

Councilor Todd Heit?schmidt asked Kjellin if the city crews said grass clipping was a problem.

?I thought it was grass clippings we were talking about,? Heitschmidt said. ?In general, I don?t see a lot of limbs, brush (or other items) thrown in the street.?

Heitschmidt was referring to the language in the proposed ordinance addressing debris such as compost, papers, boxes, ashes, lumber or other litter.

Kjellin said the issue is not debris going down the storm sewer drain, because once yard debris is down the system, it will flush out.

The problem, he said, is cleaning the grates at the time of the flooding event and keeping them open from accumulation on top.

?We do have a crew that goes out when it starts raining and they rake it out,? he said. ?A small amount will get hung up in the grates.?

Kjellin said he believes this was a popular ordinance 50 years ago, but it has gone out of favor with time.

?(This type of ordinance) was something on the books at one point, to the best of my knowledge, and was appealed as part of later actions,? he said.

Sanitary sewer

The Uniform Public Offense Code, he said, does have rules about not putting waste down a sanitary sewer.

?We don?t feel the storm sewer, though, would be enforceable through the UPOC,? Kjellin said.

Heitschmidt asked who would enforce the proposed ordinance.

?It would be the police department because the police would be out finding it and writing citations,? Kjellin said. ?Not sure what legal standing we have for our utility supervisor to do it.?

Councilor Jerry Dieter asked if there was any ordinance defining what could or could not be done.

Kjellin said there are several ordinances about sanitary sewers.

?There was something at one time,? he said, ?but it appears the ordinance was appealed or amended, and if it was still on the books the fine would be $10 and no more than $100.?

Mayor Mary Olson reiterated the ordinance was something to consider, but not act on.

?Tonight,? she said, ?we are just bringing it to the attention (of the public) that it might be a problem and we are putting it out to the public.?

Olson said it could always be put back on the table at another time.

Marketing idea

Heitschmidt offered the suggestion of the city staff coming up with some type of marketing campaign to get the word out about this issue.

?We can pass an ordinance, but the fees aren?t enough because we would spend more time in collecting that,? he said.

Heitschmidt said he wondered if the city should just inform residents that throwing, raking or depositing things in the street is unacceptable.

?The area I see is leaves and not grass,? he said. ?Who are you going to get in the fall to say: ?Well, this blew down from someone else?s place.??

Heitschmidt said he hoped the city could take a different route, because an ordinance would be a waste of time.

?We don?t need to take police staff time or draft an ordinance,? he said.

Olson agreed.

Those areas with a ?chronic? problem should be addressed, Heitschmidt told Kjellin.

Other business

In other business, the council:

— approved an ordinance for the issuance of general obligation bonds for main street improvements.

— approved a resolution regarding the form and detail of the general obligation bonds.

— approved a bid of $836.513 by Vogts-Parga for the Fourth and Williams street replacement.

— approved the Kansas Department of Transportation Aviation grant application.

— approved having a private contractor paint 19 light poles black along the downtown district between First and Fifth streets. The vote was 4-1 in favor with Councilor Jerry Kline casting the dissenting vote.

During the discussion, it was decided not to have city crews involved in the painting of the poles due to potential liability problems.

Kline said he thought city crews should do the work and save the taxpayers the extra expense of about $3,000.

— denied sponsoring ?Dam Run for Education.? Olson said she believed it was a ?great project,? but could not vote in favor of giving a donation with taxpayer money.

— accepted Kjellin?s resignation as city administrator effective Wednesday, Sept. 25.

Following a 15-minute executive session, the council returned to open session and appointed Roger Holter, economic development director, as its interim city administrator.

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