Ledyard trash ordinance angers mobile home owners and operators

Ledyard — Mobile home residents and park operators plan to publicly express their concerns about a newly adopted ordinance that shifts the responsibility for trash pickup away from town government at a town meeting Wednesday night.

The ordinance, adopted in October as one action in a series of moves to absorb cuts in state aid, dictates that the town will no longer provide trash pickup service to mobile home owners beginning in February. It is estimated to save the town between $20,000 and $24,000.

However, the decision has left mobile home residents and operators alike angry, and there is also a lingering question among some as to whether the Town Council is properly interpreting a state statute mandating that mobile home park operators "arrange" for trash removal that is integral to the ordinance.

Residents and operators are being given the opportunity to speak about the issue at a Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"There was just such a small group of properties impacted by this," said Nathan Weiss, who operates a mobile home park on Long Cove Road. "You can rent a house and get refuse service, but you can't own one in a mobile home park and get service."

For residents and operators the issues with the ordinance have seemingly rallied around a few points. 

For one, mobile home residents pay property taxes just like any residential homeowner, yet under the new ordinance they are the only residential homeowners excluded from receiving trash pickup services.

"I've got to go to a meeting tomorrow night to fight to keep my damn garbage services, which we pay taxes for," said Steve McGahan, a mobile home resident and operator of a five-home park for the past 20 years.

"We pay taxes on the home and they want to take away service ... it doesn't make sense," he said.

Secondly, several operators and residents also said that they were unaware that the ordinance was even being considered until after it had already passed and they received a mail notice of the impending service change.

However, the Town Council did meet the requirements of public notice, and posted about the previous public hearing on the Ledyard Community Forum Facebook page. No one showed up to speak against the ordinance at that earlier hearing.

The ordinance has also been defended by town councilors and the mayor, several of whom said mobile home residents not receiving trash services equates to other town services not directly received by all taxpayers, for example, taxpayers who pay into the school district without having children.

"People's taxes go for a lot of things," said Bill Saums, chairman of the Town Council finance committee. "We provide services and we levy taxes. It is not the same as a commercial business transaction."

Mayor Fred Allyn III also said that budget cut choices like the one involving trash pickup service are very much a balancing act, walking the line of cuts that eliminate services versus raising taxes on people altogether.

"It is not unlike what we're doing in town; it's a team approach," said Allyn, referencing how sacrifices are being made across town.

The impact of the cuts in state aid has not been lost on several of the park operators.

"I understand that Ledyard has been shocked by the governor with this huge deficit," said Weiss. "Nonetheless, whatever we do should be equitable."

Ultimately, though, the reason the topic will be discussed at the upcoming meeting is not because of arguments surrounding equity or communication. Rather, it's jumping to the forefront because of a lingering question regarding whether the Town Council properly interpreted a state statute that says operators (the land owners) are obligated to "arrange for the removal from waste receptacles of ashes, garbage, rubbish and other waste incidental to the occupancy of a dwelling unit."

Essentially, in the absence of the municipality, operators are responsible for arranging trash pickup, but the question is whether "arrange" means operators are simply responsible for making arrangements, or whether that means they are obligated to pay for it as well.

Council Chairman Linda Davis said that the town is double-checking with its attorney and will correct the ordinance if the Town Council misinterpreted something. However, if there was no misinterpretation the ordinance will proceed.

c.clark@theday.com

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