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City talks bears

Council agrees to enforce existing ordinance before making new one

Christine Metz

The Steamboat Springs City Council decided it wants to strengthen its bear ordinance, but it’s not ready to require all residents to have bear-proof trash cans.

The council discussed a proposed bear ordinance that would require city residents to use a wildlife-proof trash container, regardless of where they live or when they leave their trash out.

The council was not ready to go to that extreme, but members did suggest a few changes to the ordinance. The council members also said the city should better enforce the existing ordinance.

The existing bear ordinance, which was adopted in 2001, requires wildlife-resistant trash containers for any garbage that is put out before 5 a.m. and left out after 6 p.m. on trash day. After pick-up, all containers must be returned to a building, house, garage or Dumpster enclosure.

Council President Paul Strong suggested that residents who put their trash out before 5 a.m. put it in a wildlife-proof trash container, as opposed to a wildlife-resistant container.

“Let’s try that for a season and see what happens,” Strong said. “If that doesn’t get it to where it has to go, I would like to see it go citywide.”

Councilwoman Kathy Connell agreed that enforcement should increase and said anyone cited for violating the bear ordinance should be required to purchase a wildlife-proof trash can.

“I think we’ve got to get tougher, especially on the violation side,” Connell said.

The council also suggested educating residents.

This summer, the city started to enforce vigilantly the bear ordinance and had 180 violations. Of those violations, four were given citations. City Manager Paul Hughes said a clear ordinance, such as the one proposed, would be an easier means of curbing the bear problem.

“Enforcement is really the less efficient way of getting something done,” Hughes said. “This is a way where we do not need enforcement, and we could prevent bears from getting into trash cans. That could be the most efficient way to do it. It is certainly not the most popular way to do it.”

Meg Bentley, a resident on Uncochief Circle, said bears have become a more frequent problem in her neighborhood and have climbed up to her second-story porch. She asked the city to work on education and to fund a countywide bear awareness program.

“What is going to happen, there will be a big tragedy, whether with an adult or child,” she said. “We are asking for trouble, and it is not going to get better.”

Dave Williams, who lives on Blue Sage Drive, said the proposed ordinance could have an economic effect on every resident. He encouraged the council to enforce the existing ordinance first.

“I am concerned the council could take a knee-jerk, feel-good reaction to a problem that could have an economic impact to every citizen in the community,” he said.

Under the proposed ordinance, residents would have been required to build, purchase or rent a wildlife-proof container. Ace at the Curve sells a Colorado Division of Wildlife-approved 95-gallon trash container for $197.50 or a 64-gallon container for $179.50.

Waste Management also has a program in which customers can purchase a wildlife-resistant container for $25 and then pay $5 a month to have it serviced. The cost includes replacing the trash can if anything happens to it.

Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said only 10 percent of Waste Management customers had wildlife-resistant containers and the proposed ordinance could hit almost everyone’s pocketbooks.

“There is a financial impact pretty much to everybody,” DuBord said.


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