River Falls to enforce ordinance

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 9, 2002

The Town of River Falls is stepping up efforts to beautify its community.

And, if Councilwoman Mattie Freeney, Police Officer Richard Moss and longtime mayor Mary Hixon have their way, that beautification effort will begin with increased enforcement of Ordinance 2001-3, which involves junk, litter and inoperable vehicles.

"There are no entrances into the city that look nice," said Freeney. "And that is what we want to do, enhance the look of our town. Most people who live here have been here all their lives, and we would like for some people to want to stay here."

She said the town would like to attract some businesses if possible, but said the town needs to do something about the way it looks before it gets to an irreversible stage.

"Right now (the problems in the town) are just a lot of minor things," said Freeney. "We need to clean up some yards and plant a few trees."

Freeney, who has lived in River Falls all of her life, said the problems are a combination of several items, such as houses that are decaying, and yards and businesses that are filled with trash or other types of debris.

"In recent years, we've had a scrap yard and a few other businesses that have moved in, but we would just like to do something to cover that up and make (the town) look nice," said Freeney.

"(The problem) is not so much the homes, but the businesses," added Moss.

Freeney said the town may also have to look at another type of garbage system.

"If people leave their garbage out, and it is not in containers, dogs get into it or the wind will get into it or it gets knocked over and it's not picked up," said Freeney. "Then trash is thrown all over the place and I think that is part of the problem. Most people who live here, they do have some pride (in the appearance of the town) and they do pick up their trash. Then there are some that don't."

Moss, who has been a member of the town's police department, said the police department is basically looking to more heavily enforce the town's litter ordinance, and writing citations if people do not comply with the ordinance.

"Our ordinance gives us the right to have a piece of property cleaned up at the owner's expense," said Moss.

Hixon, the mayor of River Falls since 1972,

said the ordinance has been in effect since October, but added the town has never really publicized it to a great degree.

"We wanted to let (the residents and business owner) know (the ordinance) is fixing to go into effect, and we did not want to blindside them," said Moss. "We wanted them to have ample time to address the issues on their own before we knocked on their door and told them that there is a problem, and told them that we are not meddling in their business but are enforcing the ordinance. We don't just want to go out there and write a bunch of citations on an ordinance that (people are not totally familiar with)."

"(The ordinance) applies to residential, commercial and public property, so no one is left undone," said Freeney. "We have to clean up our house just like everybody else. There are probably more safety hazards than junk."

"We don't have a 'junkyard,' but we have some people who use equipment and take parts off and lay them in a yard and they don't call it a junkyard, but that's what it is," said Moss. "We have water sitting in old tires and old barrels and we had some water sitting in a wheelbarrow that were covered in mosquitoes and the first thing I thought of was the West Nile virus. That could affect my kids."

"Part of the ordinance is that any unsightly junk or equipment should be behind a fence," said Freeney. "We also don't want anybody to think they can come dump (trash) on River Falls. We want a place that our children can be proud of."

Freeney said it is important to note the problem with unsightly areas are isolated

and not widespread.

According to the ordinance the storage of damaged, worn-out or discarded materials and objects such as inoperable vehicles, building materials, waste paper, machinery, household furniture or other scrap and junk tend to attract children and endanger their lives and/or health, spread diseases, invite plundering, attract vagrants, create fire hazards and other safety and health hazards and create, extend and aggravate urban blight, interfere with the enjoyment and/or reduce the value of private property and interfere with the comfort and well-being of the public.

It is also stated that the adequate protection of the public health, safety and welfare requires that the storage of inoperable vehicles, junk and scrap materials be regulated and controlled for the overall good and protection of the public as a whole.

Junk, according to the ordinance, includes all metals, whether ferrous or non-ferrous, used second-hand parts of machinery, plumbing fixtures or parts thereof,

parts of an automobile, truck, bus, motorcycle or other motor vehicle, gas or electrical appliances or fixtures.

Other items include cable, bearings, valves, pipes and pipe fittings, building materials, wood, plastic or any used or secondhand metal articles, including motor vehicles and vehicles as defined herein.

Litter is defined in the ordinance as items including paper, cardboard, cartons, boxes, plastics, rags and cloth, fibers and fabrics, leather, polyethylene and polystyrene.

Garbage is termed as the animal and/or vegetable waste resulting from the handling, preparation, cooking

or consumption of food or food products.

A junk or salvage yard in the ordinance refers to any premises establishment or place of business which is duly licensed and operated in accordance with all applicable laws and/or ordinances in River Falls, and which is maintained, operated or used for storing, keeping or dismantling of junk and salvage, but shall not include the place of business or premises of a scrap processor as herein defined.

According to the ordinance, it is unlawful and a violation of the ordinance for any person to store or keep upon the premises of any residential lot, apartment building or complex, trailer court or any other tract of residential property, any inoperable vehicle, scrap or junk, unless the same is housed in an approved, enclosed

covered structure so as not to be viewable from any public way or any other private property, and in a manner as to prevent a health, fire or safety hazard as defined by the laws of the state and the ordinances of River Falls.

The same law pertains to commercial property in regards to inoperable vehicles, scrap or junk.

For those wishing to view the ordinance, they can contact any member of the River Falls Town Council.