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City backs off bagging ordinance

A week after saying the city would begin strictly enforcing a long-standing ordinance requiring residents to bag leaves, Selma officials began backing off that enforcement, citing a need for more education and a tougher law.

“We went back to the original ordinance and could not find where any fine — or anything — was in place for those who failed to bag their leaves,” Selma Mayor George Evans said following Tuesday’s council meeting. “Not even when the ordinance was reviewed during the last council and administration, nothing was placed in there as a consequence.”

Now Evans, and members of the council, who said Tuesday they had received dozens of phone calls from residents after last week’s announcement, complaining of a more strict enforcement, want to re-evaluate the ordinance and educate the public on its requirements.

“We can’t penalize residents for something that doesn’t exist,” Evans said referencing the lack of fines in the ordinance. “Even the ordinance — let me see — that we saw in 04 or 05, there was nothing about a fine. It just encouraged people to bag their leaves.

“We need to put some teeth into it so that if you don’t bag your leaves then something will happen,” Evans said.

Ward 3 councilmember Greg Bjelke, who also chairs the council’s public works committee, said he received a number of phone calls after last week’s meeting.

“It was everything from ‘I’m too old and can’t rake my leaves’ to ‘bags don’t deteriorate in the landfill’ to ‘bags take up more room in the landfill than loose leaves,’” Bjelke said of the complaints he received. “It [ordinance] has always been there but it has never been enforced. It’s never been pushed. So I think there is talk of giving residents a little more time.”

During the council meeting, Ward 2 council member Susan Keith took a much stricter approach to the ordinance saying it has long been time for residents to adhere to the ordinance.

“We’ve been telling people for years to bag their leaves. It’s been a law for a long time,” Keith said. “They are supposed to bag their leaves. When are people going to start doing what they are supposed to do and stop whining?”

In the end, Evans said it was his decision to back off more strict enforcement after he researched the ordinances.

“At that point, I made the decision we need to simply continue to encourage residents to bag their leaves,” Evans said. “It does make it more efficient, it makes it easier on our city crews.”

There was no timetable set on evaluating the current ordinance or drawing up new language.

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