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Falling to Plan is Planning to Fail

Last week Brockport officials let a perfect opportunity to improve code enforcement slip through their fingers. Will they let another perfect opportunity slip through their fingers again next week?

Trash at 113 Utica Street
Trash at 113 Utica Street
TJM
Trash pile on College Street
Trash pile on College Street
TJM

Last week was the end of the semester; the college students were moving out of their rental properties in the Village, and everyone in Brockport knew exactly what was going to happen.

The students would put huge piles of trash and dead furniture at the curbside and then leave town. The trash and piles of trash and dead sofas would sit there on the street for days on end, in clear violation of Section § 21-7 G of the Village Code.Every year rats, cats, dogs, raccoons and drunken college students then rim-rack the trash piles and make a mess all over the Village.

Village officials should have seen it coming, but they didn’t have a plan in place to deal with it.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Benjamin Franklin

There has been a lot of talk about improved code enforcement in Brockport since Margay Blackman was elected Mayor on June 18, 2013. But there hasn’t been a lot of action on it.

During her mayoral campaign, Margay Blackman promised better code enforcement, but so far only two things have happened: Scott Zarnstorff resigned in November and David J. Miller was hired as the new Code Enforcement Officer.

No wonder the people who supported Blackman are fed up with the continued lack of code enforcement.

And the people calling on Blackman to keep her campaign pledge about better code enforcement aren’t radical hot heads.

The two people who are most vocal about the problem are two of the most dignified people in Brockport: Pam Ketchum and Marcy Stickles.

Pam Ketchum has been pushing for better code enforcement all year. On May 12th, Pam sent an email with 17 photos of gross trash code violations to the Mayor, the Trustees, the Code Enforcement Officer, and several other people in the Village.

The Code Enforcement Officer could have taken those photos, walked over to the offending properties and written a ticket for each code violation. But that didn’t happen.

Since May 20th, Marcy Stickles has been sending emails about how she is “… worried about the garbage piled up outside the rentals just vacated by students.”

Marcy has provided plenty of examples of the pig sties left by the students and the landlords, but nothing gets done about it. So you have to ask yourself, “Why Do We Put Up With This Garbage?”

There are three causes of the problem:

  • Landlords who tell their students to violate the law.
  • SUNY Brockport’s failure to provide adequate on campus housing.
  • The failure of the Village government to enforce the law.

Landlords who tell their students to violate the law.

As the students get ready to move out, and ask their landlords what they should do with the garbage, the landlords tell them to put it by the curb and that they come by next week and put the trash cans away.

That is exactly what happened yesterday when the students living in Bob Wilson’s old house dragged three overflowing garbage cans out to the curbside five days before the next scheduled trash pick-up.

When I mentioned to Brianne that putting the trash out so early was an invitation to have rats, cats and even raccoons rim-rack the garbage, she said that she had asked her landlord, Craig Faulks, and he had told her, “To put it out and that he would come by next week and bring the cans in.”

According to Section § 21-7 G of the Village Code, the landlord is responsible for making sure that the trash is not put on the street more than 24 hours before collection day.

§ 21-7. Depositing waste material with Village limits [Amended 7-19-2004 by L.L. No. 1-2004]

G. The property owner, lessee or occupant shall transport his or her refuse and refuse receptacles to his property line, but said trash receptacles and recycling bins shall not be placed curbside any earlier than twenty-four (24) hours before collection day, with said empty receptacles being removed from curbside no later than twelve (12) hours after trash collection.

Because of Memorial Day, trash collection day next week is Thursday. So the landlord told the tenants that he wanted them to break the law.

The cost of garbage collection is a cost of doing business, but the landlords don’t care.

The landlords would rather tell their tenants violate the law than taking the time to drive over to the rental house on Wednesday to put the garbage out, and then drive back on Thursday to put the trash cans away.

When I pointed that out to Brianne, she was nice enough to move the garbage cans to the back of the house, where they belong.

It remains to be seen whether the absentee landlord will drive over to put the garbage out on Wednesday, or if he’ll let it sit behind the house for a week and a half.

SUNY Brockport’s failure to provide adequate on campus housing

According to the 2013-2014 Profiles published by the State University of New York, SUNY Brockport only has enough dormitory space for 39% of its students.

The undergraduate enrollment at SUNY Brockport is 7,166 students, and
6,454 of them are full time students.

However, SUNY Brockport only provides housing space for, “Approximately 2,500 beds are available in 12 residence halls.”

That means that more than 60% of the students have to find off-campus housing in the Village of Brockport.

That is disgraceful. SUNY Brockport spends money on building another sports complex on the campus instead of building desperately needed dormitories.

Maybe it’s time for the two retired college professors on the Village Board to exert their influence on campus to get the SUNY Brockport Administration to do something about the desperate shortage of on-campus housing.

The failure of the Village government to enforce the law

According to Section § 21-7 G of the Village Code, the landlord is clearly responsible for making sure that garbage is not piled on the street.

But every year, the Village government lets the landlords tell their tenants to pile the trash on the street. And every year the Village government fails to issue tickets to the students and landlords who violate § 21-7 G of the Village Code.

On Friday, mayor Blackman wrote, “Everything moves too slowly for everyone who wants change.”

That may be true, but it is also true that the Village government is moving much too slowly to change things.

Every year the Village government makes the same mistake about the trash piled on the streets at the end of the Spring Semester.

Margay Blackman promised change. Now is the time to deliver.

Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.
George Bernard Shaw

The Brockport Village government has one opportunity next week to do something positive about this situation.

Trash collection day is Thursday in the western half of the Village, because Monday is a holiday. So any trash at curbside on Tuesday is in clear violation of the Village Code.

All the Code Enforcement Office has to do is get in his car and take a quick drive through the streets. It shouldn’t take him more than an hour to drive up and down every street in the western half of the Village, because that’s what it took me on Saturday morning.

In that short period of time I saw 17 violations of section § 21-7 G of the Village Code.

The Code Enforcement Officer can write a ticket for each violation he finds, and take a digital photo of each violation. Then he can go back to the Village Hall and easily locate the name and address of the landlord for each offending property.

Then he can mail an appearance ticket to each of the landlords who own property with trash out front illegally.

The worst thing that can happen is that the judges on the Sweden Town Court will disregard the tickets or give the landlords a slap on the wrist.

But even if that happens, the Village would have put the landlords on notice that the Village will no longer tolerate the landlords creating a health hazard by telling their tenants to pile trash on the streets.

Next year the Village Court will be in full operation, and hopefully the Village Justices will take a more positive role in enforcing the Village Code than the Town Justices have taken in the past.

Next week offers Brockport officials another perfect opportunity to improve code enforcement slip through their fingers. Will they let it slip through their fingers again? Or will they finally do something to solve this nagging problem?