Council passes final ordinance on bear-resistant trash containers |

Council passes final ordinance on bear-resistant trash containers

With the warmer weather and receding snow, black bears are emerging from hibernation in the Yampa Valley.
Shannon Lukens

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a 6-1 vote, Steamboat Springs City Council passed, on second reading, the ordinance requiring residents and businesses to keep their trash in bear-resistant containers, bear-resistant dumpsters or within a bear-resistant enclosure.

“It’s shutting down the bear buffet that is our trash containers throughout the city,” said City Manager Gary Suiter. “I can guarantee bear calls will go down. I have experience in that.”

Suiter has worked for other municipalities in Colorado when they instituted similar ordinances.

This spring, the Steamboat Springs Police Department has already received 44 bear calls, up about 94% from the same time last year, according to Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen.

Council member Robin Crossan was the sole vote against the ordinance, saying, “Not because it’s not the right thing to do — it’s the timing.”

Crossan expressed concern about the investment required by the trash haulers to provide bear-resistant containers as well as a significant increase in cost to customers amid the current financial uncertainty.

The ordinance includes a program to assist lower income residents with the increased cost passed on to consumers by the trash haulers. Customers will be required to lease the new containers from the haulers, and the haulers will replace cans in the event they are damaged.

Both haulers — Twin Enviro and Waste Management — estimated their customers will see bills increase by about 30%.

Les Limon of Twin Enviro and Jeb Hensley of Waste Management noted this is not an ideal time for the haulers to have to make a capital investment or for consumers to see costs increase.

The subsidy program, which will expire in 2022, will provide about $100 per year per qualifying resident, which will cover nearly all of the increase.

Council President Jason Lacy requested city staff keep the council updated on how many people are qualifying for the program — especially given the current economy — so the council can use contingency fund money if the program amount exceeds what is currently budgeted.

The program will be phased in over a period of three years and also includes about $11,000 for marketing and education.

Also included in the new ordinance are regulations banning bird feeders from April 15 to Nov. 15 unless they are suspended in such a way that they are inaccessible to bears and the rule that containers cannot be placed curbside earlier than 6 a.m. on the day of trash pickup. The new law also requires the containers to be taken in the same day.

Recyclables, yard waste and cardboard are exempt, but Suiter noted it is a good idea for people to remember to rinse their recyclables.

Council member Heather Sloop said the recyclable issue gives her “great pause,” in that unrinsed recyclables may lead to bears digging around in the recycling containers.

Council member Lisel Petis emphasized the preference for haulers to offer an option for smaller containers and the need to ensure the heavier containers are manageable for all residents to get to the curb.

Council member Sonja Macys noted that curbside pickup is not the only option for people to get rid of their trash, and that if they decide it costs too much, residents always have the option to haul it themselves.

Crossan expressed concern about the trash containers that she sees currently left out seven days a week and the lack of enforcement on that rule.

Council member Michael Buccino addressed the argument that has often been brought to council from people who say they have never had an issue with bears getting into their trash.

Buccino said in 25 years, he’s never had an issue.

However, “It’s a community issue, not a street issue,” he said.

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

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