City, trash haulers agree on terms of bear ordinance, city manager says |

City, trash haulers agree on terms of bear ordinance, city manager says

A bear battles a trash can in June 2019 along Fish Creek Falls Road in Steamboat Springs.
Shannon Lukens/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A recent meeting with the city’s two trash haulers was “productive and positive,” said Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter, putting Steamboat Springs City Council one step closer to passing an ordinance requiring all residents and businesses to use bear-resistant trash containers.

Suiter said recommendations from the trash haulers, Twin Enviro and Waste Management, were incorporated into the final draft of the ordinance. For one, the city moved up the timeline for implementation from four years to three and agreed to phase in implementation of the new ordinance geographically, starting with routes with the most bear-related issues.

The goal would be to have 25% of residents with the new cans in the first year, 50% in the second year and 100% by March 2023, Suiter said.

The haulers also wanted to supply the containers themselves, Suiter said, and will likely add an undetermined increase to their customers’ rates to recover the cost over time. At previous meetings, the haulers emphasized their mechanized equipment needs to be compatible with the containers.

With those stipulations, both haulers pledged cooperation, Suiter reported.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee-certified containers cost from $230 to $340, according to the city, and it will be up to the haulers as to how they pass that cost — and the cost of repair or replacement in the event of damage — onto their customers.

There was discussion among council members as to whether there should be a cap.

Council member Robin Crossan questioned whether the can should be an upfront cost, so that customers didn’t have to pay into “infinity.” Council member Jason Lacy said he thought those costs would work themselves out through market forces and competition. 

For businesses, the ordinance would require either dumpsters with bear-resistant lids or dumpsters kept in bear-resistant enclosures.

Suiter said the city plans to roll out an education campaign ahead of enforcement of the new ordinance at the cost of around $15,000 to $20,000, comparable to the plastic bag ban campaign.

The council emphasized the need to provide assistance for low-income residents. On that front, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is applying for a grant to assist with cost, and in terms of mechanism, Suiter said the city already has subsidy programs in place, such as for utility assistance, into which a rebate could be rolled.

Council member Heather Sloop expressed concern about the new containers being heavy to maneuver and difficult to open, especially for elderly residents.

Local inventor Rollin Stone made an appearance before council, promoting his device that retrofits existing cans to become bear resistant. Stone said his devices would bring down the cost significantly and utilize existing containers.

During public comment, Larry Desjardin, president of Keep Routt Wild, expressed support for the ordinance and for providing financial assistance to ensure better compliance.

“Let’s keep bears wild and alive and our citizens safe,” he said.

The council agreed the trash container ordinance is only one step toward reducing human/bear conflict.

Crossan referred to a public comment submitted from a woman who watched her California town progress through a series of efforts — from bear-resistant cans to enclosures to the electrification of houses, because when the bears couldn’t get into the trash, they went for the houses.

Sloop addressed people who complained about the ordinance because they hadn’t ever had an issue with bears getting into their trash as they took measures on their own to prevent it.

“We have to step up as community to change bear behavior,” she said.

Council member Michael Buccino noted, “We are not going to get rid of the bears just with this. But as a community, we have to do something to start — it’s a matter of protection of citizens and bears.”

The ordinance is scheduled for a first reading at the council’s March 3 meeting.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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