2014-09-25 / Front Page

Council to consider bag ban ordinance

Dan Parker
Reporter


From right, wearing yellow ‘skip the plastic’ ribbons at the Sept. 18 Port Aransas City Council meeting are Stephanie Smith, Julie Findley, Mallory Kollaja, Rae Mooney, Colleen McCue and Neil McQueen. They were there to support the idea of a ban on plastic shopping bags and to hear city officials talk about a broader-ranging initiative to control litter and trash in town. 
Staff photo by Dan Parker From right, wearing yellow ‘skip the plastic’ ribbons at the Sept. 18 Port Aransas City Council meeting are Stephanie Smith, Julie Findley, Mallory Kollaja, Rae Mooney, Colleen McCue and Neil McQueen. They were there to support the idea of a ban on plastic shopping bags and to hear city officials talk about a broader-ranging initiative to control litter and trash in town. Staff photo by Dan Parker Will bags be banned?

Maybe.

Meeting on Thursday, Sept. 18, the Port Aransas City Council took a big step toward the possibility of imposing a ban on plastic shopping bags at the point of sale. The council voted 6-0 to instruct city staff to draw up an ordinance to ban the bags as a litter control effort. Councilman Bob Petitt was absent.

Council members are expected to look at the proposed ordinance at their Oct. 16 meeting and decide whether they want to adopt it as law. It will take votes at three separate meetings to make it an official city ordinance.


Republic Services worker Jaime Melena unloads a bin full of plastic containers and paper products into a recycling truck on Channel Vista Drive on Monday, Sept. 22. Port Aransas city staff is in the process of developing a broad-ranging anti-litter and trash initiative. 
Staff photo by Dan Parker Republic Services worker Jaime Melena unloads a bin full of plastic containers and paper products into a recycling truck on Channel Vista Drive on Monday, Sept. 22. Port Aransas city staff is in the process of developing a broad-ranging anti-litter and trash initiative. Staff photo by Dan Parker An estimated 20 to 25 citizens interested in litter control watched as the council talked about the issue. Many of them wore yellow ribbons with the words “Skip the Plastic PA” pinned to their shirts.

After the vote, Keep Port Aransas Beautiful Chairman Julie Findley said she and other bag ban supporters were more than pleased that the council voted to have an ordinance drafted.

“We are ecstatic,” Findley said. “A unanimous vote!”

But there is no guarantee that all of the council members will end up agreeing on details of how a ban should work. Exemptions for certain kinds of businesses, such as restaurants, are possibilities.

Councilman Edwin Myers pointed out that an ordinance likely is going to need to spell out exactly what kinds of plastic shopping bags will be prohibited. They come in a variety of sizes, styles and thicknesses.

Councilman Charles Bujan warned against providing too many exemptions.

“When you start exempting places, then what you end up with is nothing,” he said.

City Manager Dave Parsons presented the council with bag ban ordinances used by various Texas cities including South Padre Island.

Parsons said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has concluded that all of the nine bag ban ordinances around the state are constitutional as long as they’re for litter control or environmental reasons.

Abbott said a court likely would conclude that a bag ban pertaining to solid waste management purposes or bans involving bag fees probably would be found to conflict with state law and overturned, according to Parsons.

By a straw vote, the council also approved Parsons’ idea to create a temporary “litter/ trash initiative board” that will meet over the next few months to provide advice on how best to put the finishing touches on a broad-ranging draft anti- litter and trash initiative put together by staff.

The board will include members of the public, such as representatives of various environmentally oriented Port Aransas groups like Keep Port Aransas Beautiful, the University of Texas Marine Science Institute Green Team and others, Parsons said. The committee also will include a few city staff members and representatives of Republic Services, the firm that is under contract to provide Port Aransas with garbage and recycling pickup service, he said.

Presenting the draft initiative to the council Thursday, Parsons proposed a number of actions to cut down on litter and trash problems throughout Port Aransas.

Suggested actions include:

• Better loose trash collection (possibly by hiring more temporary workers).

• An improved beach recycling program and south jetty trash pickup (to be developed by the board and staff).

• Erecting anti-litter signs on the beach (with details to be developed).

• Launching a public awareness campaign to reduce littering on the beach, with details to be developed. Components could include making free plastic garbage bags available to the public and putting anti-litter logos on city vehicles.

• Stricter enforcement of litter laws on the beach and on city streets.

• Possibly obtaining 96-gallon toters that would replace the 18-gallon bins currently used for curbside recycling pickup.

• Educating the public against dumping construction debris and other prohibited materials at the city hall recycling center. Installation of cameras to keep watch over the center also is a possibility.

• Finding a better way to inform residents when they have overloaded their garbage toters or otherwise have broken the curbside pickup rules, such as by piling up junk around their toters. It’s best if garbage truck drivers leave written notice at homes where that happens, but that doesn’t always happen, Parsons said.

• Putting toters at Roberts Point Park, which currently has only garbage cans with no lids.

• Increasing staffing, possibly with part-time seasonal help, to deal with trash at Dennis Dreyer Municipal Marina.

• Using the board to address methods for dealing with litter and trash at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture, Port Aransas Community Park, other city facilities and fishing piers.

• Asking merchants to help control litter problems that originate with materials from their businesses.

• Developing agreements with owners of large lots along State Hwy. 361 to allow city workers to pick up litter on their property, some of which involve sensitive wetlands.

• Installing better nets atop garbage trucks to keep trash from blowing out.

A final anti-litter and trash initiative will be presented to the council after the document is hammered out by staff, Parsons said.

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