ELKO — Throughout the last year concerned residents, business owners and city staff have investigated possibilities to control or eliminate litter in the downtown area.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the council heard public comment and voted to begin working on an ordinance that prohibits open glass containers on city property, unless granted by permit. The intention behind the broad and general wording, Mayor Chris Johnson said, is so the ordinance can be focused over a series of two or three meetings.
“I think the ultimate ordinance is trying to solve a problem, trying to fix what’s broken,” said Assistant City Manager Delmo Andreozzi.
Andreozzi said the targeted approach to the ordinance may make it more successful and address the real issue, as opposed to being widespread and vague.
The intention behind an ordinance from the perspective of city and downtown business owners is to reduce litter and money spent on litter cleanup in the downtown area.
“If people have an aptitude to discard glass containers, they probably would discard some other container as well,” said Andreozzi. “The biggest difference is the time and energy to clean up glass containers as opposed to containers of other materials.”
He said when the issue was previously addressed, the concern with the open container wording that appeared was that it would make all alcohol consumption in the public right of ways illegal, as opposed to glass containers. Andreozzi said by limiting the ordinance to the central business district, the area where the bulk of the problem is will be addressed.
In city code, the central business district is from Second Street to Ninth Street, and between Silver to Court streets.
Lori Atherton, manager of Stray Dog Pub & Cafe, is in favor of a city-wide ordinance, as she says the problem comes from everywhere.
She suggested no glass bottles be allowed 10 feet from the buildings, which would allow outdoor patios to continue serving drinks and food outside.
Andreozzi emphasized the importance of allowing glass containers by permit, so that downtown establishments would have the ability to engage in outside dining and outside displays involving glass, as mentioned by Atherton.
“We don’t want to stop anyone from enjoying what downtown has to offer,” said Hayley Bammesberger, owner of Hayley’s Fine Gifts on Fifth Street.
Bammesberger also said it was important that events such as the wine walk be addressed, as downtown business owners had to fight to allow wine glasses at the walks a few years ago, and that the community enjoys the wine glasses as it makes the event classy. She hoped that the language would also allow customers to sit outside on the sidewalk and enjoy a beverage out of a glass bottle without having to put it in a plastic cup.
Police Chief Don Zumwalt said that the majority of time that people go out with a drink to wander it’s downtown, and he also believed that the central business district would be an appropriate place for such an ordinance, as opposed to the remainder of the city.
“It’s not up to me to change the culture of the city, I need to embrace it,” said Zumwalt. “However we can tweak it a little bit to make it cleaner and safer.”
He said to increase the enforcement and to get out the word about the new ordinance, officers would work the central business district on foot and in swing shifts. Zumwalt also said he believed there would be a lot of discussion and warnings issued, but if people were responsible about what they were asking, there would be little need for arrests.
“I very seldom see reports where someone was attacked by a broken coffee cup,” Zumwalt said in support of eliminating glass bottles.
Johnson said he had previously discussed the law enforcement side of the ordinance with Zumwalt.
“Anytime the police can have a preventative type method versus manpower that may be on the tail end, (it) should be considered,” said Johnson.
Many of the downtown establishments have begun providing plastic cups to transport beverages once customers elect to leave the building. Councilmen recognized the collaboration of these businesses to solve the problem, as did Andreozzi.
“The benefit of having some type of ordinance would allow the bar managers and employers to inform customers there is an ordinance in place,” said Andreozzi, which he believes would make people a little more compliant in using plastic cups when they exit a building.
“As Rich (Perry) has said and I agree with, I think that Elko is way behind and the glass ordinance will really help get us to where the other communities are,” said Johnson.
Andreozzi anticipated the ordinance taking four to six months to complete.
“Anytime that we can take that step of saving money and making the community better, it’s a potentially good thing to do,” Johnson said in support of initiating an ordinance.
Johnson said if people had concerns or ideas over the language to email the councilmen with their input throughout the process. The draft ordinance also will be available for public review and can be requested through the councilmen.