McMullen: Be responsible, dispose of yard waste properly

November 26, 2012

I’m proud of Sedalia’s ongoing status as a Tree City. And since there is no shortage of trees, there is no shortage of tree-related issues.

“They say there is a city ordinance against blowing leaves and grass and so forth into the streets,” insisted one caller in the most recent edition of Sedline, “That must be a joke, because people do it all the time and nobody does anything about it.”

And yes, like the code of any reasonable city, the Sedalia code includes an ordinance like that. There’s even a few that you could argue could apply to putting your yard waste in the street but I think this is the most relevant: You can find it in section 30, so named “Prohibited Practices” of chapter 48, so-named “Solid Waste:”

“To dispose of any garbage, refuse or mixed refuse by depositing it in any public or private street or roadway, vacant lot or premises of any kind or character within the city, or in any stream or body of water within the city, or by burning or burial thereof; provided, that nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the disposition of garbage, refuse or mixed refuse by means of burning in an approved incinerator.”

So yes, people who have been calling into Sedline almost every single week to complain about grass clippings/ leaves in the streets, it’s not technically allowed but you already knew that despite any sarcastic insistence to the contrary. I think there are more appropriate places to call if you actually see a violation of city code.

The trouble is that it is excessively difficult to actually pin a violation like that on someone unless they’re actively doing it in front of an authority figure. It’s the sort of thing that one does all at once and after the dirty deed has been done it’s very easy to feign ignorance and insist that the streets and gutters must be decorated with someone else’s leaves.

“I took my leaves down to the city’s yard waste repository weeks ago; I don’t know what sort of fiend would blow theirs into the street!”

So it will be your word against theirs and neither of you will probably have any proof either way.

Yeah, it’s easy to get away with it. People break laws, ordinances and codes each and every day both actively and unknowingly without getting busted. It happens here in Sedalia and everywhere else.

But that doesn’t mean you should do it.

Your waste has the potential to pollute the water. But maybe you need a more direct consequence: Your leaves, grass and other solid waste will eventually get washed down the storm sewers. And that’s all fine and good until one particularly rainy and careless day where that vital draining system is clogged by all our waste and our streets, yards and homes are flooded.

And there’s one more thing to consider: not just the tree leavings, but the trees themselves. The harsh summer left many trees and shrubs high, dry and dead.

“Section 302.4.1, Diseased, Aged Trees or Shrubs. To be added to read as follows: ‘All premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from trees or shrubs that are diseased, injured, aged or any other condition that makes it likely for such trees or shrubs or branch thereof to fall, whereby injury or damage might be caused to some person or neighboring structure or improvement.’ ”

And any that are barely clinging to life will probably get finished off by the winter weather.

Handle your dead or dying trees before the winter sets in — especially the ones that have branches that overhang sidewalks, roads, walkways or adjacent properties. They aren’t coming back, ever, so don’t just let them sit there. The first significant snowfall of the season might see a rash of fallen limbs and trunks and the results could be disastrous.

Take care of business, even if it has the unfortunate consequence of giving in to your particularly nosy neighbor.