Trash and recycling bins at KFSK (Angela Denning/KFSK)

Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday said no to two months of free garbage drop off at the baler facility as a way to reduce the trash can temptation for problem bears.

The assembly voted down an emergency ordinance that would have waived the cost of bringing residential garbage to the baler for 60 days. Assembly member Jeff Meucci asked staff to draft that and he said it could help with the community’s annual visits from bruins seeking an easy meal.

“I’ve heard lots of comments from a few folks about well this is just going to be inviting people to take all their junk they’ve been storing in their garage for years and that’s not the intent here,” Meucci said. “The intent is to have a place for people to dispose of their garbage before the sanitation truck gets there.”

Petersburg is heading into another autumn with bears knocking over trash cans and prowling around homes.

However, public works director Chris Cotta did not think the emergency ordinance would help.

“It’s easier for the customer to do other things than to take time out of the middle of their day and to come up to the baler and dump garbage, a simple measure like putting a tie-down strap on their can until the morning of pickup or some folks have the option to keep their garbage inside,” Cotta said. “Those things are a lot easier to do than make a special trip up to the baler to dump your garbage.”

Cotta estimated waiving the fee for two months could cost the utility around 25-thousand dollars. He along with police chief Jim Kerr suggested a change to local law for more enforceable penalties for leaving trash out for bears.

“The people who will take advantage of this are not our problem people,” Kerr said. “We’re talking about people who are, our problem people are the ones that, oh it won’t happen to my trash can this time or it’s been hit a couple times. Those people aren’t going to be taking advantage of this. They won’t even take the extra step just to put a ratchet strap on their can.”

Borough staffers also said they’ve been focusing on educating people about bear problems and easy sources of food. They’re working on a more permanent revision on local code to include warnings and fines for garbage violations. Existing law requires a “reasonable effort” to keep cans secure. The proposed sanitation ordinance revision will likely also include an increase in rates for local garbage customers and could come before the assembly by their next meeting this month.

Meucci’s proposal Monday was an emergency ordinance and it only required one approval by the assembly. But he was the only vote in support and it failed by a 5-1 vote. Assembly member Bob Lynn was not at the meeting.