City may tweak new bear rules

Bear committee disbands

Posted: Monday, July 02, 2001

The Juneau Assembly considers changes tonight to a new ordinance designed to keep garbage from bears as the work of the Mayor's Ad Hoc Urban Bear Committee draws to a close.

Juneau Mayor Sally Smith said she'll be sending letters to committee members this week, disbanding the panel. Technically, work ended when the committee turned in its report and recommendations, she said.

"The committee was an ad hoc committee and their charge was to put together recommendations for an ordinance," she said. "It doesn't stop me from drawing them back together if I want their advice and opinions."

Smith said the committee did an excellent job and she's been hearing positive comments about recent city changes designed to protect bears.

Committee Chairman Mark Farmer said he was disappointed in the mayor's decision and wasn't given any information about the committee's time frame. He said the committee is happy with the

final product, but more work needs to be done.

"We need a public affairs campaign, a property tax credit for bear-resistant containers and the city needs to aggressively enforce the ordinance. Without a perception of enforcement, people are not going to comply," he said.

The ordinance, approved May 21, tightens trash restrictions in the Juneau area. Trash cans need to be labeled with the owner's address and can only be outside after 4 a.m. on the day of pickup, unless they are stored in a bear-resistant container.

Proposed changes clarify the difference between an infraction and a more serious misdemeanor violation under the code. Specifically, the language would give a property owner 48 hours to address a problem before a misdemeanor charge is issued. Additionally, the changes will give the Juneau Police Department the ability to hang violation notices on a doorknob as not to wake people up in the middle of the night.

Under the code, a misdemeanor stems from a "bear attraction nuisance." Such a nuisance is defined as more than five gallons of garbage not in any structure or container, or organic material that has attracted a bear to the property on prior occasions. The code wouldn't cover natural bear attractants such as berry bushes or salmon streams.

Juneau Assembly Member Don Etheridge, who voted against the original ordinance, said he is hearing concerns from residents who are having difficulty complying with the changes. He said he'll probably vote against tonight's amendments.

"It's still doing the same thing - trying to drive a tack with a sledgehammer," he said.

Because the changes are pending, the police department has not been charging people with misdemeanors under the new code. Officers have been enforcing language that results in an infraction, similar to a traffic ticket. A fine for an infraction under the new garbage code starts at $25 and can reach $100. A misdemeanor fine starts at $100.

In other action, the Assembly will consider spending $500,00 to dredge about 2,700 cubic yards of sediment from the north end of Steamship Wharf to accommodate larger ships.

A $200,000 loan to Gastineau Human Services to establish a crisis respite center and a discussion about reimbursing former city Wastewater Utility Superintendent Andy Bronson for legal costs also are on the agenda. Bronson was sentenced in federal court last month for illegally tampering with samples at the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant in 1998.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Assembly chambers.

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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