ATHENS -- Code enforcement officers in Athens may be spending too much time making sure residents don't leave their garbage cans on the curb too long.
Trash can violations doubled last year to 1,281 and now make up more than a fifth of all Athens-Clarke County "quality of life" ordinance violations, according to an audit released last week.
Some Athens-Clarke commissioners think the Community Protection Division, the county's code enforcement arm, is devoting too many resources to dealing with the problem, they said Wednesday at a meeting of the commission's audit committee.
"You almost have the equivalent of two full-time people tracking down trash cans," Auditor John Wolfe said.
The eight CPD officers' time would be better spent enforcing laws in commercial areas that often are neglected in favor of residential neighborhoods, Mayor Heidi Davison said.
County law requires residents to roll their trash cans off the curb by the morning after pickup so they're not an eyesore. But stickers affixed to cans issued by the Solid Waste Department do not say that there is a fine for leaving them out too long, nor are they written in Spanish, Commissioner Alice Kinman said.
Wolfe suggested charging garbage customers who consistently leave receptacles on the curb too long for backyard pickup, which is more expensive than curbside service. A surcharge on trash and water bills rather than a fine also would work, county Attorney Bill Berryman said.
The problem may fix itself, though. CPD Administrator John Spagna attributed the uptick in trash-can violations to curbside customers who switched from back yard pickup after the commission raised rates last year, in addition to the college students who consistently violate the ordinance. Violations likely will decline as new curbside customers get used to the rule, Spagna said.
The report, an update of a 2008 audit of CPD, found that officers are handling more cases, relying less on citizen complaints and bringing more violations into compliance without issuing tickets.
Wolfe said an audit of the Human and Economic Development Department, his most recent project, should be released in August. The audit committee told him to review the county's environmental coordinator position and the Solid Waste Department after finishing the HED report