Educating the public, hiring staff to step up enforcement and better maintenance are among the solutions Haverhill city councilors have compiled to resolve the widespread proliferation of dog waste in downtown Haverhill.
The City Council’s Natural Resources and Public Property Committee met Tuesday to address complaints by store owners and residents about the situation and apparent lack of response by the city. One of those business owners, Matthew Gaiero of G’s Texas Southern Flare restaurant, said he finds waste on sidewalks, alleyways and in parks. He said the problem needs to be addressed from a number of angles with a primary focus of providing the public with the tools needed to take care of the situation. To that end, he brought a map he’d made showing the hot spots.
“We color-coordinated some places where we might put some waste stations, buildings that dogs are allowed to live at and potential places where we could put trashcans,” he said.
Gaiero said his plan would provide a total of 12 stations downtown. Currently, there are only three.
Committee Chairperson Thomas J. Sullivan agreed improvements and maintenance are two important keys in combatting the issue. He suggested two other avenues to help solve the problem as well.
“What can we do to better educate and make aware to the residents downtown of the rules and regulations as well as, how do we maintain a program and not just establish something that nobody’s going to monitor and enforce?”
Some of the ideas offered by the committee, the public and some city councilors include posting more signs, talking to building owners and resident dog owners about the problem and the city’s plans to begin enforcement, and hiring someone to walk downtown, particularly between 7 and 9 a.m. and then again between 5 and 7 p.m.
Regarding the latter, City Council President Timothy J. Jordan said he spoke with Haverhill Police Chief Robert P. Pistone, who said although he does not have the manpower to designate an officer for the job, he would consider another idea.
“If there are people interested in even getting deputized to do this, that he is open to that and paying them,” he said.
Enforcement would involve fines. Currently, the fines are $50 for a first offense and $100 per additional offense. Those are not being enforced, however. Committee members agreed in order to be effective, those fines must be enforced and be significantly higher. One suggestion was $100 for a first offense and increasing by $50 for each subsequent offense. Councilor Melissa J. Lewandowski proposed a $1,000 fine for habitual offenders.
The committee also discussed what power they have to enforce pooper scooper laws on residents who leave piles of waste on their own property.
Ultimately, they decided by a unanimous vote to condense all of the suggestions and present them to the City Council for approval. Afterwards, they will be sent to Mayor James J. Fiorentini for adoption and ideas for ways to finance the program.