NEW PORT RICHEY — New Port Richey officials are considering higher fines for people who illegally toss trash, yard clippings, furniture and other items in the city instead of taking debris to landfills.
The current $30 fine has failed to deter violators, Police Chief Kim Bogart told city council members Tuesday night. Perhaps a proposed $500 fine will get their attention, Bogart said.
Code enforcement officers have reported a “significant increase” in illegal dumping cases here, Bogart wrote in a memo to council members. Bogart thinks violators are trying to avoid paying a private hauler to take away debris or paying a fee at a landfill.
“Some residents, contractors and landscape service companies are dumping their debris throughout the city, especially in alleyways,” Bogart said. Current city codes don’t specifically address illegal dumping, he added.
“It drives me crazy (even if) a kid throws out a candy wrapper” on the ground, Councilman Jeff Starkey said.
“It’s hard to believe it took so long for this ordinance,” Starkey added about the proposal, which had its first reading Tuesday.
Councilman Bill Phillips recommended sterner penalties, with $1,500 fine for the second violation and an appearance before the city’s special magistrate for a third offense.
“It’s hard to get their attention,” Phillips remarked about habitual offenders. “It’s three strikes and you’re out.”
City Attorney Nicole Nate, however, said $500 is the maximum fine under state laws for Class VII infractions. She believes habitual dumping could be prosecuted under the city’s new chronic nuisance ordinance passed last year.
Bogart was under the impression chronic nuisance would not apply to illegal dumping because the identity of the violator often is unknown. Nate said the option indeed would be available.
The dumping ordinance passed on a 5-0 vote. Council will schedule a second public hearing, probably at the April 15 council meeting, before taking a final vote.
In the meantime, the city has more community cleanup days in the works.
In November, residents had responded with trash that filled eight loads of large trash bins at Frances Avenue Park off Louisiana Avenue and the former church property at 6131 S. River Road.
Materials collected then included glass, carpet, metals, wood, house furniture, lawn furniture, drywall, mattresses, box springs, fencing and plywood.
A small cleanup event is on the radar for June, Public Works Director Robert Rivera told the council. On a larger scale, another Neighborhood Cleanup Day is being considered for November.