Mount Rainier officials were already looking to dump the city’s rodent and trash problems by forcing businesses to keep their large metal trash containers well maintained, but a dead rat found in a city restaurant helped speed up the process.
Under a proposed ordinance, business owners would have to keep Dumpsters equipped with tight-fitting lids that are closed when not in use. Dumpsters also must be enclosed on three sides with a fence to block them from view in residential areas and be placed on asphalt or a concrete pad to prevent rodents from chewing into the bottom of the Dumpsters, City Manager Jeannelle Wallace said.
Violators would be charged $250 for the first offense and $500 for repeat offenses for a one-year period, she said. The violation fees would start again at $250 in successive years, she said.
A business owner would also be billed if city staff must clean waste outside a Dumpster or address the presence of foul odors or rodents, according to the ordinance.
“I am glad that it is being addressed, and we are putting it on the books to hold our business owners accountable,” Councilwoman Ivy Thompson (Ward 2) said of the proposed ordinance. “[It] will help address the problem of the rats because if they can’t get into the food source, they will die or move on.”
Wallace said rats have been an issue with some city businesses as late last year the city restaurant Francis’ Carryout on 34th Street was closed temporarily after a patron photographed a dead rat inside.
Resident Tyrese Robinson, who lives on the 3700 block of 35th Street near numerous businesses on Rhode Island Avenue, said she has seen rats and litter in the area.
“The majority of business owners that we have are very responsible,” Robinson said. “This is only a positive step in the right direction to maintain a beautiful community and a clean community.”
Some business owners say they are concerned about the regulations.
Jaskinder Gill, 50, owns the properties from 3404 Rhode Island Ave. to 3428 Rhode Island Ave., which entails two vacant lots, four residential housing units and space leased out to several businesses. Gill also owns and operates Chuck’s Liquors at 3416 Rhode Island Ave., and has one Dumpster for all his properties.
Building a concrete pad for the Dumpster and enclosing it with a fence would be too costly, he said.
Gill said city officials already asked him to build a fence to block his Dumpster from view on 38th Street because officials do not want residents to see it because they believe it is an eyesore. Gill had a wooden fence built on one side to block the Dumpster from the street but did not enclose it on all sides. He said the fence cost him $400.
Bridget Burns, owner of Century Fence Construction in Upper Marlboro, said building a concrete pad underneath a Dumpster and fence could cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,500, depending on how high the fence needs to be built and what tools would have to be used.
“This is bad,” Gill said. “Businesses are already struggling.”
Neil Dicken, secretary for the Mount Rainier Business Association, said he wanted to discuss the proposed legislation with council members before commenting. Dicken owns Party Time Liquors on Rhode Island Avenue.
On April 25, Gill’s Dumpster lid was open with a bag of trash and boxes overflowing at the top and trash on the ground. Gill said he should purchase a larger Dumpster to address the problem.
Resident Victoya Chittams, 18, who lives on Rhode Island Avenue near Gill’s Dumpster said she favors the new regulations.
“I have seen trash that is overflowing and a lot of people dumping,” Chittams said. “It is kind of a problem. There is just too much junk.”
Wallace said council members would discuss the ordinance further at their May 7 meeting.