The mayor's ad hoc bear advisory committee is backing off the idea of mandatory garbage pickup in Juneau.
At its Jan. 11 meeting, the committee recommended making bird feeders illegal, garbage pickup compulsory, and bear-resistant garbage containers mandatory in some cases. The panel also called for establishing a bear-problem hot line and suggested the urban bear be adopted as the symbol of Juneau.
"Mandatory pickup was a recommendation from another bear committee from about 10 years ago," said Arrow Refuse Manager Glenn Thompson, a committee member. "It would help prevent problems that come with garbage storage and with scofflaws who dump their garbage everywhere."
But there was a public outcry, and the committee thought that was overshadowing the bear
problem, he said.
Thompson said the outcry was primarily from the Empire's Word of Mouth column, which features transcriptions of anonymous telephone calls from readers. Committee members also received calls from residents complaining about the recommendation.
"We didn't actually react to something as trivial as Word of Mouth," said committee Chairman Mark Farmer. But calls from concerned residents to committee members over the last couple of weeks did have an effect, he said.
"While mandatory pickup is something I believe in strongly, some people were concerned with the garbage they recycle and compost," Farmer said, adding that others who live out the road don't have pickup available to them.
When the committee re-voted the issue, Thompson abstained and Farmer voted for it, the latter said. The rest of the committee turned down the package of requirements.
"We didn't want everybody high-centering themselves on the mandatory garbage issue," Farmer said. What's important is to make sure bears have a chance next year, he said.
The committee was named by Mayor Sally Smith after last fall's city elections and includes Farmer, Thompson, state fish and game area biologist Neil Barten, city environmental zoning officer Dan Garcia, Police Chief Mel Personett, Juneau Assembly member Marc Wheeler, and photographer Pat Costello.
Farmer said the committee will hold public hearings on its recommendations at the Douglas Library, the assembly chambers, Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School and Floyd Dryden Middle School in February.
The committee's recommendations will then go to the assembly for consideration.
Fernand Chandonnet can be reached at email@example.com.