With the transient population growing in the city and the associated problems becoming more noticeable, the Oakdale City Council on Monday, July 6 proposed a city ordinance prohibiting the searching of waste containers, otherwise known as “dumpster diving.”
During the proposal, City Manager Bryan Whitemyer told the council with the downturn in the economy, the city has experienced an increase in individuals who search trash cans and other waste containers for objects of value. This searching, he said, results in a nuisance of trash being strewn across parking lots, parks and yards along with waste containers left open that attract pest animals like raccoons.
Waste container lids are also left in roadways and walkways and, along with the strewn garbage, can be a threat to the public health, safety and welfare of residents.
“This gives the city (police) another tool,” Whitemyer said. “We don’t have the resources to continually enforce, but (this) gives us another tool to enforce and disperse.”
The ordinance provides a number of exceptions to ensure that people are still able to regulate their own waste containers and to avoid interfering with the operation of the city’s waste disposal contractor.
Whitemyer said a violation of the ordinance would be considered a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine or up to six months in jail, but that a jail sentence was unlikely.
Councilman Tom Dunlop said similar ordinances were popular in other cities but questioned the ordinance in regard to containers that were on private, residential property.
“From what I understand,” said Dunlop, “is if it’s on private property it’s fair game compared to if it’s put out on the street or public property.”
City Attorney Tom Hallinan confirmed that the city couldn’t do enforcement for private property violations.
“Loopholes were figured out by those (dumpster diving) when this was done in Fresno,” Dunlop said, pointing out that officers could still enforce trespass violations for those coming on to residential property to go through trash cans.
“It’s more of a public nuisance on public property and a private nuisance on private property,” Hallinan said.
According to Whitemyer, the ordinance was still enforceable at shopping centers where dumpsters were located.
Another presented ordinance was in regard to placing age restrictions on city park playground usage.
The proposed ordinance by Whitemyer would prohibit adults, 18 years of age or older, from using the playgrounds in city parks unless they are supervising a minor. Whitemyer said he came across this concept for Oakdale after visiting Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and noted a similar regulation in place.
“Generally speaking, adults are stronger and faster and possess a greater awareness of limitations than children,” said Whitemyer. “As such, adult recreation can be rougher and more skill intensive. Minor children have a greater susceptibility to injury trying to participate in recreation with older individuals.”
Whitemyer said the restriction is meant to protect children from being injured from older individuals using the playground equipment meant for kids.
“The purpose is to create a safe play area for children,” Whitemyer said.
Mayor Pat Paul described the ordinance as an “innovative way” to care for children playing on the equipment.
“I like the concept,” Paul said.
Both ordinances passed unanimously, 5-0.