Merriam Mayor Ken Sissom breaks council tie vote to change trash can screening requirement in city

Merriam Councilor John Canterbury (C) listens to Al Frisby during the trash container discussion Monday. Scott Diebold is at right.
Merriam Councilor John Canterbury (C) listens to Al Frisby during the trash container discussion Monday. Scott Diebold is at right.

The Merriam City Council Monday agreed to change its ordinance regulating how trash containers must be stored by residents between trash collections, but only after a tie vote that was broken by Mayor Ken Sissom.

The change eliminates the need for the trash containers to be screened from view from the street by making a small change in the city ordinance. After hearing from more than a dozen residents who were unhappy about recent enforcement of the trash can screening ordinance for the second consecutive council meeting, council members split evenly on making the change. The ordinance had read that containers had to be stored “inside a structure or otherwise placed behind the front building line and screened from view from the public rights-of-way, except for alleys.”

The change, originally proposed by councilor John Canterbury two weeks ago, substitutes the word “or” for “and” which means trash containers must be placed behind the building line or screened from view, but are not required to be out of view from the street. They cannot be left in front of garage doors, even with the less restrictive language.

The council split 4-4 with councilors Cheryl Moore, Jim Wymer, Canterbury and Al Frisby voting for the change. Opposed were Nancy Hupp, Pam Bertoncin, Chris Hands and Scott Diebold. Sissom cast the tie-breaking vote for the change, telling the audience: “You should feel like you made a difference.” He noted the trash container storage had not been an issue until two weeks ago.

“Screening of the bins was not a new provision,” councilor Hands said while recapping committee work that led to a new solid waste ordinance last July. She said the screening had not been enforced, but the goal was to “have a neat, tidy-looking community” and the requirement was left in the new ordinance.

Community Development Director Bryan Dyer said code enforcement on the trash containers had started in January with a small section of the city. Door hangars were left on 100 houses that were not in compliance out of the 260 homes in the first enforcement area. After a series of notices, all the houses were in compliance. In a second area, he said, 141 of 320 homes were not in compliance and that has been reduced to 28.

In making his proposal, Canterbury noted that several northeast Johnson County cities require screening from the street, but that Mission and Shawnee do not.

The audience at Merriam City Council meeting Monday applauds speaker Kurt Jones. The audience was largely opposed to enforcement of the trash can screening ordinance.
The audience at Merriam City Council meeting Monday applauds speaker Kurt Jones. The audience was largely opposed to enforcement of the trash can screening ordinance.