Council irons out details for city’s bear-resistant trash container ordinance (with video) |

Council irons out details for city’s bear-resistant trash container ordinance (with video)

Testing conducted May 8, 2016, at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s testing site in Yellowstone National Park. Video by Bear Block LLC of Hayden.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The first reading of Steamboat Springs City Council’s ordinance to require all Steamboat residents and businesses to store their trash in bear-resistant containers passed unanimously Tuesday, March 3.

“I don’t like mandating to people that they have to do something,” said council member Robin Crossan. However, “We all agree that we don’t want bears to die.”

A frequent complaint council said they received was from residents who keep their trash in a garage and have never had bear problems.

“Our street does not have a bear problem, but our community does,” Crossan said.

And that’s why Crossan said she was supporting the ordinance.

“It’s something we have to do together,” she said.

During public comment, two people spoke out against the ordinance, both making the point that, instead, the city should enforce the existing ordinance that states waste should be stored indoors at all times except between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on trash pickup days unless it’s stored in an approved wildlife-resistant container

From the trash haulers’ perspective, City Manager Gary Suiter said both Waste Management and Twin Enviro made it very clear they did not want to be in the business of selling containers. They want to buy their own containers and essentially lease them to their customers.

“We are strongly opposed to having customers owning their own containers,” said Twin Enviro owner Les Liman.

Suiter said he was striving for standardization and not a free-for-all in terms of purchasing different containers. His staff has been working since September 2019 to pull together the best parts of ordinances from other communities into one ordinance, Suiter said.

“The more we mandate or regulate their (trash haulers) businesses, the more costs are driven to the customers … it’s a pretty direct correlation,” Suiter said.

The more streamlined the ordinance, the easier it is to enforce, Suiter said.

Lee Wolford, fleet manager for Waste Management, said the company would likely charge customers about an additional $10 per month and would replace the cans in the event of damage no matter who was responsible for the damage.

Council member Lisel Petis expressed concern over the size and weight of the containers and what it would require physically for residents, especially older ones, to haul their containers to the curb.

Wolford said his company does offer a carryout service.

The haulers said the industry is going toward automation that keeps drivers from having to get out of the truck, which significantly improves safety. Therefore, they prefer automated containers that open on their own when lifted.

On size, Liman said he wasn’t aware of anyone manufacturing smaller bear-resistant containers. Wolford said he was familiar with some smaller options, but they weren’t high enough quality to sufficiently keep out the bears. According to the ordinance, haulers may offer other sizes, but it does not mandate them to do so.

Rollin Stone, a Hayden resident who patented an invention that retrofits existing cans into certified bear-resistant containers, told the council he would be happy to help with exploring options for smaller cans.

Stone also spoke in support of the paragraph in the ordinance that allows people who have already invested in containers — like his — to be able to keep them.

After the meeting, Stone said his company, Bear Block, LLC, currently works with Twin Enviro, and he said he will be meeting with haulers next week to talk about his most recent invention — an automated version.

Stone emphasized he is offering a more eco-friendly approach by utilizing existing cans. And if they are damaged beyond the 90-day warranty, he can fix the device for $50.

Stone said he’d put his container up against any of the models available, and that in five years in business, his customers have not experienced a single breach.

In April, Stone said he will be taking his new automated invention — Bear Block 6000 — to Yellowstone National Park to be tested by the grizzly bears and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

He’s working hard to keep that new container in the $180 price range. His current model, the Bear Block 5000, costs customers $160.

The other cans on the market run more in the $230 to $340 range.

In terms of the free market and competition, several council members made the point that customers always have the option to buy their own container, retrofit their existing container or haul it to the dump themselves.

The latest draft of the ordinance details a financial assistance program under which residents who already qualify for federal programs can get a subsidy of $100 a year until 2023 to cover the cost of bear-resistant containers.

The plan is for the containers to be phased in over three years, requiring that 100% of containers and dumpsters be bear resistant by March 31, 2023.”

Petis urged the council to be mindful of unintended consequences, such as bears not being able to get into trash containers, and as a result, becoming more prone to getting into cars and houses.

The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled to happen during the council’s March 17 meeting.

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

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