Douglas County commissioners look at bear box proposal |

Douglas County commissioners look at bear box proposal

Adam Jensen

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners weighed in Thursday, Feb. 18, on the possibility of modifying the county’s trash ordinances in regard to bears. The prevailing sentiment among commissioners was, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Coordinating trash laws between the City of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County and Douglas County to create consistency between the South Shore jurisdictions and hopefully reduce the number of incidences of bears getting into trash has been under consideration for the past several months.

Most problems South Tahoe Refuse experiences with bears getting into garbage have come from El Dorado County and South Lake Tahoe, said Jeff Tillman, president of the refuse company, during the Douglas County commissioners’ regular meeting in Stateline Thursday. Vacation rentals are of particular concern for proper trash disposal.

“We kind of pushed this to try and get everything to look the same,” Tillman said.

According to Tillman, the refuse company would like to see policies across the South Shore that would allow enforcement against property owners that don’t dispose of trash properly. Later collection times introduced about a year ago have helped, but haven’t solved issues related to bears and trash.

“We’re really trying to get these properties and those people that just don’t care,” he said.

Commissioners noted Douglas County already has stringent trash-management policies and sees relatively few bear problems. Carl Ruschmeyer, public works director for Douglas County, said he couldn’t recall a property owner having a second offense in regard to improperly storing trash. In Douglas County, a second such offense within two years of a first requires the installation of a bear box to contain trash cans and keep refuse away from bears.

“We’re pretty comfortable, at least at staff level, that at this time we have a pretty strong ordinance,” Ruschmeyer said. “And actually, our enforcement is probably more restrictive than what is being proposed in terms of a tiered notification.”

Douglas County’s bear policy is similar to El Dorado County, although El Dorado County requires all new residential construction to include a bear box, said commissioner Nancy McDermid.

“We don’t have near the instances of Incline Village or the City of South Lake Tahoe,” McDermid said, mentioning the North Shore community that has seen numerous bear issues in past years. “Our ordinance has worked, and I see no reason to change it.”

Commissioner Barry Penzel said he was concerned about passing the cost of a bear box, approximately $1,200, onto residents if they become mandatory.

“I don’t see what’s broken,” Penzel said.

The South Lake Tahoe Basin Waste Management Authority, which includes representatives of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County and South Lake Tahoe, is expected to meet later this month to further discuss policies for regulating trash disposal in regard to bears. Any changes would need to be approved by the governing bodies of each jurisdiction to take effect.

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