Dirty sidewalk? It may cost you in Edgerton

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May 31, 2012
— The city of Edgerton is crafting an ordinance that would force property owners to keep their sidewalks free of litter or face fines up to $200.

The ordinance, which is being presented to the city council on Monday, is intended to curb what officials say is a growing problem of cigarette butts and other debris accumulating on downtown sidewalks, mostly outside of taverns.

The city has an ordinance that prohibits littering, but nothing on the books requires that sidewalks be cleaned.

A draft of the new ordinance shows it would require property owners or occupants in charge to sweep up and dispose of debris on sidewalks in front of their properties.

Owners in violation would face fines from $25 to $200, the draft ordinance shows.

Sidewalks downtown are city property, officials said.

Alderman Mark Wellnitz said he suggested that city staff craft an ordinance after he heard several complaints from residents about debris—mostly cigarette butts—piling up on sidewalks outside downtown businesses.

Wellnitz said the city would send businesses a warning notice before fining them.

"We're just trying to give the city the capability to say, ‘Hey, you need to get your area cleaned up a little better or we'll fine you,'" he said.

Wellnitz said complaints he's heard apply mainly to downtown taverns, where patrons smoke outside and then flick cigarettes on the sidewalk before going back in. He said the problem has gotten worse since the statewide smoking ban went into effect.

He said some businesses are better at keeping the sidewalks clean, but some businesses just sweep litter into the gutter. Under an existing city ordinance, that's not allowed.

On a recent Monday morning, a walk by a Gazette reporter in downtown Edgerton along Fulton Street and adjacent side streets revealed:

-- Several cigarette butts on the sidewalk outside taverns at 112, 116 and 124 W. Fulton St. and empty beer bottles along the sidewalk outside 116 W. Fulton St.

-- Dozens of cigarette butts stuck in drains around a tree outside a tavern at 13 Swift St.

-- Piles of cigarette butts and debris in the gutters along Fulton and Swift streets.

Barb Hemenway, a bartender at the Pit Stop on Swift Street, said the tavern has a smoking area out back with garbage receptacles for cigarettes. The tavern encourages smokers to go there instead of the front sidewalk.

Hemenway didn't know how dozens of cigarette butts were in the grates around a tree in front of the tavern.

"How do you know if it's our patrons or if it's other people walking by? And how can you control it?"

She said if a new ordinance went in place, the tavern would have to be sure to sweep its sidewalk more often.

Alderman Dave Thomas is concerned the ordinance could stir up trouble for businesses who have neighboring businesses whose patrons throw litter onto adjacent areas.

"It would be awfully hard to police," Thomas said.

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