Snoqualmie tries new trash times to discourage hungry bears

Snoqualmie’s city council introduced an ordinance tweaking the rules governing garbage containers and bears.

In Snoqualmie, garbage containers must be stored unless they are bear-resistant. The new ordinance changes the times that garbage cans can be rolled out for pickup and when they must be brought back inside. Now, cans that aren’t bear-proof can be put out no earlier than 4:30 a.m., and returned back inside no later than 9 p.m. Before, there were no time rules.

The city’s trash service provider, Waste Management, provides bear-proof cans in 64- and 96-gallon sizes for an extra $3.24 a month.

The council addressed the fact that not all residents have a shed or garage to store their cans, with Police Chief Steve McCulley answering questions.

"Those in our lowest income bracket are affected by the fact that they don't have a place to store containers," said councilwoman Kathi Prewitt. "Have we thought about how we can help those citizens?… We need a solution for all citizens."

One remedy that's been discussed is a communal collection site for residents without storage space, said McCulley.

"I'm not sure that pulling garbage into my house… is a solution," said councilman Bryan Holloway. "You're asking them to bring garbage into the residence.

McCulley answered that he's been pulling his containers inside his garage for decades.

"We've still got a lot of people in this city that work a lot of different shifts," said councilman Charles Peterson. The new times, he said, could be an issue for graveyard-shift workers.

"We seem to be very focused on residential," Prewitt said. "But there is commercial. Those aren't bear-resistant. Wildlife will go to the next available food source."

Councilman Kingston Wall wondered what the bears might eat when garbage is hard to come by.

"We're assuming they go back in the woods," he said. "They're not going to get the memo. I don't want them to skip the garbage can and go on to the family pet."

He wanted to know what other cities who have tried this have experienced.

There aren't very many places that have, replied McCulley.

"The comment from the game agent was that they're hoping one city like ours would take it on and find a solution, so they would have a roadmap for other cities," the chief said.

Mayor Matt Larson said the ordinance was an effort to be responsive to the council, while not forcing all citizens to buy bear bins.

"We're going to have to wrestle with those issues in committee," he said.

The council will vote on the new rules on September 8, after the Public Works Committee reviews them.


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