Trash talk: Landlords, residents up in arms about ordinance change to halt city garbage pick-up

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MANCHESTER, NH – Property owners are expected to turn out in large numbers for the Oct. 3 aldermanic meeting with the hot topic of the night being an ordinance change requiring them to pay for their own garbage pickup. 

Earlier this month the Ink Link first reported that about 1,500 owners of a multi-family building with five or more units were told that as of Dec. 1 the city is no longer going to pick up their trash. 

Alderman at Large Joe Kelly Levasseur, who expects more than 100 people including tenants to turn out, said he’s received more telephone calls and emails on the ordinance change than any other issue in the 14 years he’s served as an alderman.

“This really all could have been avoided if they had put the waiver clause in the letter,” Levasseur said. “We were told there would be a waiver process for properties that were in compliance and did not have non-compliance issues.”

Levasseur has filed a motion to reconsider.  “I need eight people to say, ‘OK, we’ll reconsider it.’”  

Levasseur believes he’ll have the votes to do that.

Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long is one vote he won’t get.

 “He wants to reconsider it to repeal it,’ said Long.

Long also agreed the ordinance change became an issue because the Department of Public Works, which sent out the letter, didn’t reference the waiver or provide a link to its website for the waiver application. 

The ordinance change, he said, is meant for problematic landlords – those where there is trash on the ground, toters overflowing with garbage or too many toters.  

“Dec. 1 may be too soon,” Long said.  “I’m looking to possibly extend it to January to get clarity on the waiver and for DPW to put it on its website.”

Like Levasseur, Long said he has received many calls.  “Landlords are an organized bunch,” he said.

He did receive a call from a tenant whose landlord has 58 units.  The tenant was upset because they thought their $750 rent was going to be hiked to $1,000 a month, he said.

Long said those 58 units have not been a problem so he doesn’t “want them to have to pay to have their own garbage hauled.  I told the tenant to have the landlord call me.”

Levasseur said he received a call from an elderly woman who is paying $720 a month for rent with a monthly income is $970. 

“She was literally crying on the phone,” he said because she thought her rent was going to go up another $50 a month because the landlord had to get a dumpster. 

 “The way inflation is it’s really hitting everybody really hard,” Levasseur said.

Long has a condo at Amoskeag Terrace, a condominium complex at Elm and Hollis streets. 

City of Manchester Public Works website.

“I know in my 40 units we pay for our own garbage pickup,” he said.  When the city changed to toters, he said there were elderly residents who would have to bring the toters down to the bulkhead and then drag them back. “As an association, we felt there were people who couldn’t do it so we decided to pay for our own.  It costs $10,000 a year for 40 units.”  That comes out to about $21 a month per unit.

Landlords were caught by surprise when they received the letters about having to hire a private trash hauler.  Chaz Newton, the city’s Solid Waste & Environmental Programs Manager in the Department of Public Works (DPW) who sent the letter, said while the change will save the city about $200,000 annually the reason for it was to “mitigate the rodent infestation.”

Newton said DPW first presented the proposed change in April to the aldermanic Solid Waste Committee which includes Aldermen Will Stewart, Kevin Cavanaugh, Christine Fajardo, and Edward Sapienza.  The proposal subsequently went to the committee on second reading, then the committee on accounts and finally to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Sept. 5 where it was placed on the consent agenda, passing unanimously.

Last January, a 7-year-old was bitten by a rat inside 127 Orange St. apartment, which is outside the downtown area and in Long’s ward.   

Long said he knows the city has a rat problem because he hears from inner-city residents at monthly meetings sponsored by NeighborWorks and the Hope Church.

Levasseur, however, believes the reason for the change is “the city is looking to save money and put the cost onto the larger property owner.”


About this Author

Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.