With spring arriving early this year, many Cinnaminson homeowners took advantage of the mild weather to spruce up their yards. But that yard work came at a price for some.
Residents, including many on Erlington Drive, who hauled brush into the street outside of their designated collection period received citations from the township.
Count Janice Stonaker among those rubbed the wrong way by the citations from the Department of Public Works (DPW) superintendent, Frederick Turek. She received one on March 21, as did many of her neighbors, Stonaker said.
“I’ve lived here for almost 26 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. The citation was a first notice and did not include a fine.
It’s not the brush rules—which stipulate a time period for when brush can go curbside—or the schedule that upsets Stonaker, but the tone of the citation and what she feels is lack of communication about the regulations.
“It’s really a harsh, threatening citation. They list all of these consequences possible—a summons to appear in municipal court, putting a lien against my property for work performance by the DPW,” she said. “But before they send such a threatening letter, they better make sure they have all their T’s crossed and I’s dotted.”
The missing crosses and dots in this case, Stonaker said, are two-fold. She pointed to the outdated Cinnaminson DPW website, which still showed the 2011 collection schedule as of Monday evening. By Tuesday morning, the schedule changed to 2012.
Stonaker also said paper notifications were lacking. A mailer from the township didn’t catch her eye and she tossed it.
(Three parts of the mailer sent home to residents can be clicked on at right.)
“They really need to notify residents before sending out a citation like that,” Stonaker said. “Why not use the townwide notification system to remind people of the rules before the pickups start, so people don’t violate them? It's easy enough, they use it to remind people about Cinnaminson Day."
But Committeeman Ben Young, director of public works, takes exception to the idea that residents aren’t informed about brush rules. Cinnaminson and Young himself have gone to great lengths to inform residents about the rules, he said.
“Two notices went out, one in tax bills and another mailed. I’ve talked about these regulations at township committee meetings for years. But people don’t listen. There are times when they’ll put out brush a day after the pickup, then it just sits there,” Young said. “We’ve been trying to enforce the rules, but it seems like people won’t listen until they get a citation.”
The DPW’s Turek did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Cinnaminson isn’t enforcing the brush rules on a lark, Young said. The state Department of Environmental Protection is cracking down on stormwater regulations and Cinnaminson has to stay compliant, which means enforcing municipal stormwater rules. When brush is left curbside for too long or on top of drains, it hampers stormwater management, Young said.
It's also a matter of sheer volume. In recent years, the annual brush haul increased from 7,500 yards to 35,000. With that much brush, the rules must be followed, Young said.
“And frankly, I’m amazed people don’t take more pride in their property. It doesn’t look good to have piles of brush out in front of your house for a month,” the committeeman added. “Who wants that? I would think people would have more pride in their property.”
Cinnaminson’s brush pickup schedule operates on a four-week cycle in March through October. The township has a map delineating four zones, with each zone getting a pickup during a specific week of the month. Resident may put their brush by the curb, but not blocking storm drains, no more than seven days in advance.
Now that she knows the rules, Stonaker said she plans to fall in line. Cited neighbors are now hauling their brush back to the curb in anticipation of their neighborhood’s April 2 pickup.
“You know, (Cinnaminson DPW) went to the trouble of driving around, looking for violations, just a few days before we were allowed to put the brush out anyway. Why not just warn people of the rules first?” she said. “My beef isn’t with the rules or with the township committee—they have a job to do. I just wish the township would think about notification and the tone of the citations first.”