Talk of garbage service and how city handles snow fills up meeting time

By Jeff Smith

A truck and driver with Sander Sanitation Services collects trash in an alley on Feb. 23. The way trash is collected in Hill City could be changing.

Some have noticed that sidewalks remain in bad condition for too long after it snows. The snow and ice removal ordinance states that snow and ice must be removed within 48 hours of the termination of any snowfall or accumulation. The city has taken some of the blame for the way that they have communicated to the business owners about clearing sidewalks after snowfall.

Brett McMacken, city administrator, said there was an “operational hiccup.” Property owners thought the city was taking care of snow removal in some spots.

A lot of time and resources went into trying to get the enforcement of the code back on track.

“The ordinance didn’t change but our game plan changed,” McMacken said.

“There is a transition period that needs to exist in order to move forward.”

Dani Schade, development services coordinator for Hill City, is going to be doing more outreach with he business owners to let them know what is changing and why it’s changing.

Vice Chairperson for the commission, Les Gonyer, said that with the change in property owners doing the snow removal work the sidewalks aren’t in very good shape.

“What happens when you don’t clear the sidewalk of snow is it turns to ice and it’s treacherous,” Gonyer said.

Jim Peterson, alderman for the city council, said that he was affected by the ordinance. He was gone during one snowstorm this season and his sidewalks weren’t plowed. He thought they would be cleared but due to the ordinance being enforced they weren’t. Peterson said the city has done it for him for the last 12-15 years.

Peterson said two letters that were received from the city were good but he would have liked to see more dialogue and even see the plan come up to the city council level.

McMacken said there was a step missing in the process. A warning letter was sent to businesses because of the violation but some people didn’t even know it was a problem.

Peterson said the whole problem was a lesson in how to bring people into the fold gently.

There is also the problem of people only clearing the top portion of their sidewalk when the bottom portion is snow-packed. McMacken said all of the abutting properties on Main Street need to have their sidewalks cleared.

A few parking spaces will be taken up on Elm St. due to the snow being cleared from Main St. and other areas. Dennis Schrier, public works director, tries to move or “chase” the snow to places where it won’t have as much of an impact.

Schrier and Schade will come up with a list of what the city will maintain with snow removal going forward.

There was also a discussion about having the city council liaison be a voting member of the planning and zoning commission. There are four members on the commission right now but they have had to cancel meetings if there was not enough for a quorum.

McMacken said having a city council member be the person with voting power is not the best practice.

“It’s a conflict of interest. That person can essentially vote twice,” McMacken said.

The liaison would be able to vote on appeals or other issues twice. McMacken said it would not be fair to the applicant or those in the city.

Lori Miner, a citizen who attended the meeting, said that regulations disallow public officials to be on the planning and zoning commission. Her point was that there would have to be a change in the ordinance if something like that were to happen on the commission.

Miner said as an independent system there is mental effort put forth and the commissioners take decisions seriously.

“There is a checks and balances system to how this works. I think for someone to be on both councils — be voting members — kind of takes away that checks and balances system,” Miner said.

City attorney Frank Bettmann also advised against not using the liason for the planning and zoning commission.

The planning and zoning commission is also interested in a singular company doing city wide garbage collection and disposal.

McMacken said there is some desire for a recycling program too. Some commissioners think that having a contract with just one company in the city will keep trucks from coming on more roads and trash collection would be cheaper for citizens.

McMacken said that  the more households that take part in it will drive the costs down but he doesn’t think it will be mandatory.

Gonyer said he likes the idea for cost saving and recycling but there would not be much reduction of trucks on the roads as he thought there would be if there was just one company taking trash. There are only two garbage collection companies that come to Hill City currently.

McMacken said there are many different ways to deal with the garbage collection issue.

He said the commission has to be comfortable with going down a certain path. Some commissioners plan to see what Hill City citizens want to do.

Later in the meeting Peterson spoke about the way to go about trying to change things in the city like creating un-muffled brake ordinances and garbage services. He said it might be a good idea to test the waters with the council before going further along in the process of trying to change garbage collection.

A good deal of time was devoted to trying to come up with an ordinance for the un-muffled braended up not going anywhere.

McMacken said the commission is their own entity and needs to operate that way but also keep in mind that they don’t do things in a vacuum.

“You do have other people involved in the community,” McMacken said.

Communication is important, as Householder said.

“We need it both ways. That is why you have a council liaison person,” Householder said.

City councilmember, Kathy Skorzewski acts as the liaison. Peterson is usually at the planning and zoning meetings too.

Peterson said the meetings are a great place to have a dialogue.