Police in Coaldale may be handing out tickets that carry fines of up to $100 for high weeds, piles of dog doo or that tatty upholstered recliner on the front porch.
Council on Tuesday took the first step in adopting a "quality of life" ordinance, aimed at keeping small nuisances from becoming big blight. All council members attending the public meeting Joseph Hnat, Thomas Keerans, John Sherbin and David Yelito voted in favor of beginning the process to adopt the ordinance. Councilmen Mike Doerr, Steve Tentylo, and President Susan Solt were absent.
Under the ordinance, police would be able to issue tickets for property maintenance violations that include such categories as accumulation of rubbish or garbage; animal maintenance and waste/feces cleanup; high weeds, grass or plant growth; motor vehicles; outdoor placement of indoor appliances or furnishings; snow and ice removal from sidewalks; and storage containers for waste or trash.
Examples of violations include weeds or grass more than 10 inches high; piles of trash or garbage in or around homes; not picking up animal waste daily; having unregistered, uninspected or junk cars on the lawn; leaving a washing machine or furniture outside, even if it's for sale; failing to clear ice and snow from sidewalks within 24 hours after it falls; failing to have metal or plastic trash cans with tight-fitting lids, or failing to keep those containers out of sight until nightfall the night before trash pickup or failing to remove them before daybreak on the day following pickup.
Any public officer of the borough would be able to hand out the tickets to the owner or occupant of the offending property. Each day a violation continues may mean a new ticket and a new fine.
If the violation continues after 72 hours, the borough may fix it, or hire a contractor to fix it, and bill the property owner or occupant.
Fines for a first violation within a 12-month period would range from $25 to $50; second offenses would be $50 to $100; third offenses $100 to $250. The fines must be paid with in 15 days. After that, a $10 late fee would be tacked on. That fee increases the longer the offender waits to pay the fine or request a hearing. If neither happens at the 30 day mark, the offender could be issued a citation. Escalation from that point could mean a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail.
The ordinance would include procedures for appeals.
In other matters Tuesday, council:
*Announced that the borough's annual community yard sale is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 8;
*Agreed to send a letter to St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital, asking it to reinstate the $17,000 it once paid annually in lieu of property taxes. Keerans cited the frequency of borough police officers' frequent presence at the hospital. The hospital recently sent a letter to council, asking it to send a list of needs for trustees to consider at their upcoming annual meeting.
*Discussed changing its sewer ordinance to require homeowners to call the borough office if their pipes are blocked. The borough would make sure the main pipe (which is the borough's responsibility) is open before the homeowner's plumber does any work that may push a blockage from the lateral pipe (which is the homeowner's responsibility) into the main.
*Announced that trash will be picked up on May 28 instead of May 27, due to Memorial Day;
*Agreed to send William Gaddes a thank-you note for his donation of a large American flag for the Coaldale Complex;
*Agreed to send a get-well card to Councilman Tentylo;
*Hired two part-time police officers, to work on an as-needed basis;
*Hired two part-time laborers on as as-needed basis;
*Discussed the increase in use of heating oil at the borough garage. Keerans asked secretary Nancy Lorchak to compile the previous winter's usage for comparison to this past winter's usage.