By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — If you own or live in a building with more than four units and you are getting your trash picked up by the town, your days of receiving town rubbish collection are numbered. The Board of Selectmen last night voted that starting Feb. 1 the town will uniformly apply the regulation that residential buildings of more than four units are responsible for their own trash and are not entitled to town collection.
The issue came up at the Wednesday, Oct. 15 selectmen’s meeting, when Selectman Phyllis Hull said that she had been contacted by a number of people who were upset that some buildings of five or more units were receiving town trash collection, while most were required to have Dumpsters. The board scheduled an agenda item at last night’s meeting for any citizens who wanted to discuss it.
Department of Public Works Director Richard Stinson told the selectmen that in 1972 the Board of Public Works voted to provide trash collection to all buildings up to four families. He said that he also believed that approximately 28 buildings with more than four units were “grandfathered” by the BPW to continue getting town collection but admitted he could not find any records to support that. He also suggested that some of the buildings in question may have increased their number of units without notifying the town.
Hull said that there were more than 1,000 locations in town with Dumpsters, including apartment buildings with more than four units that are required to also pay for a Dumpster permit from the town. She cited one building that she said had 16 units but no Dumpster and was getting town rubbish collection. She said the rule should be the same for everyone. “It’s not right,” she said.
Hull added that with the town’s move to automated trash collection, it was a good time to address this inconsistency and start applying the regulations uniformly.
Ray Sanderson told the Board that he owns a five-unit apartment building at 337 Water St. and was told that he had to have a Dumpster. But he said that he knows of apartment buildings of six to eight units that have no Dumpster and put barrels out for town collection every week.
Selectman Ann Santos, an attorney, cautioned against using the term “grandfathered” to describe those exceptions that are still getting trash collection despite exceeding the maximum number of units. She said that “grandfathering” was a legal term and probably shouldn’t be used where there’s no paperwork to prove that the exceptions were so designated.
Town Counsel Thomas Mullen agreed. He noted that in this case there was no earlier statute upon which to base the notion of grandfathering.
In response to a question from Chairman Brian Falvey, Stinson said that under the rules if the owner a building with five of more units did not want to get a Dumpster, he would have to hire a private contractor to collect the trash.
Falvey said that the right thing to do would be to notify the building owners in question as soon as possible that the town will not be picking up their trash anymore.
Selectman Patrick Glynn agreed that everyone should be required to abide by the same rules. He said that while certain ineligible buildings got the benefit of town trash collection for a long time, he agreed that with the implementation of automated collection, now was the time to eliminate the exceptions.
Angelo Caiani said that he owned a six-unit apartment building on Water Street that has been getting town trash collection. He said that he has a small parking lot with barely enough parking to meet the legal requirements for the building and there was no place for him to put a Dumpster.
Glynn told Caiani that he sympathized but if he didn’t have room for a Dumpster he would have to make arrangements for private trash collection. Glynn said that it was a very common practice for landlords to pass those government mandated costs on to their tenants.
“Your tenants have been benefiting for a long time from free collection,” Glynn reminded Caiani.
Selectman Tiziano Doto called it a matter of equity. He said that certain addresses have been given leeway for a long time, while other buildings have had to comply with the rules.
The Board discussed various timelines by which to require all buildings to comply. One suggestion was to give building owners until April 1. But Hull felt that was too long, pointing out that new buildings are required to get a Dumpster and a permit right away.
Ultimately, the Board decided to set a deadline of Feb. 1, 2015 by which owners of buildings in excess of four units must be responsible for their own trash and can no longer expect their rubbish to be picked up by the town. The Board’s vote to curtail town trash collection for all buildings of five or more units was unanimous.
Stinson said that owners and tenants of the subject buildings would be notified by mail right away.