Jackson Council Urged To Increase Illegal Dumping Fines

Resident Jeff Riker urges the Jackson Council to increase existing penalties for those caught illegally dumping. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

JACKSON – Concerns of illegal dumping an unlicensed garbage hauling was discussed during a recent council meeting.

During the public hearing portion of that meeting, resident Jeff Riker, who has been an outspoken advocate for tougher code enforcement issues in the past, pleaded with the governing body to increase fees for those caught illegally dumping in the township.

“We have an illegal dumping problem in Jackson and it has been a persistent problem,” Riker said. “Residents and non-residents just don’t get the message. It is a really big problem.”

Riker said he was aware of individuals unlicensed to take residential garbage. He noted that the pickup license to do so requires a $75,000 process. He added that those involved in picking up materials were removing the material from foreclosure properties in Jackson.

“These guys have a U-Haul van and last month they did about six jobs,” Riker said.

He noted concern of recent changes in regulation that he said would lead law breakers to dump “garbage in our woods.”

“You need to make it financially ugly for them not simply a $1,000 fine,” Riker said.

Riker noted that in one situation he was aware of “dumpers were caught and now the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) became involved. Since they pled guilty in Jackson (municipal court) they are now facing an $8,000 fine (from the DEP).”

The resident advocated fines from between $5,000 to $10,000 “and no second chances.”

Riker supported the idea of a dumper or unregistered licensee picking up garbage to have their vehicle forfeited as part of their punishment.

“State fines are as high as $28,000,” Riker added. “We need to do something here not just signs saying don’t dump. We need to make it clear.”

Riker noted that in the example he cited concerning asphalt being dumped on a township road, the cost to remove it would be about $90.

“It costs about $8 a ton yet they were dumping in the middle of the road on Sterling Avenue in the middle of the day. For a $50 problem, he’s now having to face an $8,000 problem,” Riker said.

“Find a couple of dollars from a grant and consider some cameras and raise fees,” Riker strongly suggested.

Township Attorney Jean Cipriani said that fines concerning solid waste infractions on the township level can be a minimum of $2,500 and a maximum of $10,000 with other fines ranging from $1,250 to $2,000.

“Mr. Riker brings up a very good point. Our residents need to do their due diligence on who they are hiring and who may be cutting corners. There is a large concern,” Township Business Administrator Helene Schlegel said regarding unlicensed contractors.

Cipriani added that even in a case where a construction permit was not required the township could require registration of the licensed professional involved in a work project.

Council Vice President Rob Nixon said “we have a tremendous natural resource in town. We need to protect it. The material dumped there could have just sat there if nothing was done.”

“If we are going to do this, let’s do it right the first time and let’s go with the maximum fine,” Councilman Barry Calogero said. The governing body indicated that they favored that approach.

Council members also approved an ordinance entitled “Landlord Registration and Responsibility” during its meeting.

The measure will allow for the creation of an article to provide relocation assistance by the township for tenants who are displaced due to the lack of maintenance by landlords.

Cipriani said after the meeting that in such cases the township would then seek reimbursement from the landlord through a lien on their property.

“If a tenant is evicted because of an action by the code enforcement officer due to a condition on the property making it unsafe this will allow them to seek relocation assistance because it is not their fault,” Cipriani said.

“Upkeep of the property is the responsibility of the landlord and it is up to them to properly maintain it,” Cipriani added.

Business Administrator Helene Schlegel. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

During the session, Schlegel discussed an increase in fees by the building department. She said that during a recent review of that department involving the construction officer, a negative balance of around $4,800 was noted.

Schlegel said that this revenue aspect of the department “must be self-sustaining and not requiring taxpayer support.”

Calogero asked when the last time fees from that department had been raised.

“Not in the recent past,” Schlegel responded.

Cipriani said the last time the township increased fees of that type was in February of 2015.

“The analysis we’ve done concerning this shows it should cover the costs. We are not looking to make money just trying to sustain it,” Schlegel said.

Schlegel said she would prepare an ordinance for introduction during the council’s next meeting which is April 24. The township’s budget hearing is also set to be heard at that meeting.