2016-03-17 / Front Page

City Halts Trash Pickup on the Line

By Olga Enger

Residents of homes straddling the border of Newport and Middletown may have split answers when it comes to questions of voting precincts, school districts, trash pickup, or emergency services. Residents of homes straddling the border of Newport and Middletown may have split answers when it comes to questions of voting precincts, school districts, trash pickup, or emergency services. The question “Where do you live?” is typically straightforward, but for a handful of residents that fall on the Newport-Middletown border, it’s not always easy to answer.

Lifelong resident Leslie Golden pays taxes to both communities because her property, located at 24 Kay Blvd., spans the border. Her physical address is listed as Middletown, but the property is within a Newport voting precinct.

“When I send mail, if I put Middletown, they cross it off at the post office and put Newport,” said Golden. “I laugh when people ask me where I live. I tell them I don’t know.”

Since she purchased the home from her mother 20 years ago, Golden has found humor in the idiosyncrasies produced by the dual location, but she was not laughing the day Newport delivered new trash bins and skipped her house. The carts were being delivered as part of a new solid waste and recycling contract that was signed in 2014 with Waste Management, Inc.

“We have always had trash pickup in Newport,” said Golden. “My neighbors got the new cans and I didn’t. I called Waste Management and I was told I was no longer eligible. Just like that. No notification, no chance for appeal.”

As part of a broader effort to save costs by reducing landfill tonnage, the Newport Clean City Program has been reviewing the houses on the border, according to Middletown Recycling Coordinator Will Cronin.

“I’d say we have received about six households, a handful,” Cronin said. “We welcome any of the houses on the border into our program.” But unlike Newport trash collection, where residents pay no extra fees except for larger bulky items, Middletown charges a fee for trash disposal, as part of the town’s payas you-throw program.

“All my neighbors have Newport trash collection,” Golden said. “The landscaper now picks up my lawn refuge. It just angers me. I went to City Hall. I wanted to talk to the city manager. They wouldn’t let me speak to anyone about it. They told me the decision had been made.”

Although the city was not able to produce an exact count of the homes that pay taxes to both communities, plat maps and tax records reveal there are numerous on Kay Boulevard, Bliss Mine Road, Friends Drive, Bliss Road and Guthrie Street.

“Then do something about my taxes. Why should I pay taxes to Newport if the city doesn’t want to give me services? I should pay all my taxes to Middletown,” Golden said.

Last year, Newport taxed Golden on an assessed value of $62,800, for the piece of property within the city boundary. Middletown also sent her a tax bill, for an assessed value of $330,700. The house itself, which is set further back than her neighbors, is in Middletown.

“I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule on services,” said Newport’s acting City Solicitor Christopher Behan. He added that factors such as voting, mailing address, and which schools the children attend are factored into a decision on city services.

“The confusion comes with owners who pick and choose their municipal address based on what they are looking for, such as free trash pickup in Newport. It almost has to be a case-by-case determination based on all of the above factors,” said Behan.

Golden said in her case, she was told the trash is created in her home so Middletown should provide the collection service.

“As the home lies in Middletown, so do the service provided to that home,” Newport Director of Public Services William Riccio told Newport This Week.

“My yard waste is generated in Newport, so why wouldn’t they pick it up under that rule?” Golden asked.

Whereas Golden’s house is within the Middletown jurisdiction for police and fire, that line is also blurred when applied in real-life situations. When her car was stolen, Newport police took the report and retrieved the vehicle, she said.

“Police and fire in Newport would respond in emergency situations to the property,” said Behan. “For routine calls they may defer to Middletown, if they felt it was more of a Middletown address.”

Middletown Lt. Jason Ryan said the departments work together to avoid confusion.

“There are a handful of houses that fall on the line. Usually, [residents] will call one police department or the other, so the one that is not called is not aware of the call. If an emergency call comes in and both departments respond, then we usually work it out when we are there,” said Ryan. “We do have a mutual aid compact between both departments that also allows us to go over town lines if necessary. Either way, we obviously aren’t going to deny someone service because we aren’t sure which jurisdiction the house falls into.”

The school department looks at where residents sleep – if the bedrooms are on the Newport side, the children attend Newport schools.

Golden has never applied for a beach pass, but said she receives a Newport resident parking sticker in the mail every year. The house falls within the Newport voting precinct and Newport’s Second Ward.

“Most of Kay Boulevard votes in Newport,” confirmed Madeleine Pencak of the canvassing office. “When the state did its redistricting, they entered the homes into a database. So that determines where you vote,” she said.

Second Ward Councilor Lynn Ceglie, who has been studying issues related to the 2014 trash collection program, said she was unaware of any impacts to her constituents.

Last month, Ceglie brought forth a resolution directing the city to study the costs and benefits of the fee-based bulky waste program, including the possibility of re-instituting free and more routine collection. The new program took effect when the city signed the 2014 Waste Management contract, in addition to the new bins.

“We need to look at the policy and the cost of various alternatives, but we also need to look at whether [current procedures have] been properly communicated,” said Ceglie at the Feb. 10 meeting when her resolution was unanimously approved.

As for Golden’s issue with her trash, Ceglie said she was unaware of the situation.

“I don't have any comments because no one has ever complained to me,” she said.

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