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$500 fine for stirring in trash?
City officials are preparing new regulations that outlaw the practice of scavenging through garbage cans set at the curb on refuse collection days or face a $500 fine.

The city may also make it a misdemeanor to rummage through commercial dumpsters, a practice commonly referred to as "dumpster diving."

The current Ceres Municipal Code does not allow anyone to take recyclables stored on private property or in toters set at the curb for collection. The city ordinance specifically states that recyclables set at the curb for collection are the property of the garbage collector, Bertolotti Disposal. However, the city has no laws on the books which forbids persons from rummaging through garbage containers to glean various items.

Senior Planner Tom Westbrook said the cities of Turlock and Modesto have code sections dealing with those who dig into trash cans from a standpoint of preventing a public nuisance and a hazard.

"We don't want waste stirring around," said Westbrook.

Vice Mayor Ken Lane brought up the matter of trash can rummaging at a recent council meeting, noting how uncomfortable it makes him and others feel. Lane also noted that trash is commonly spilled during the process. In speaking to police officers about the problem, Lane was told police have no teeth to bite into the problem. "This would put a little bit of teeth in it," said Lane of a proposed ordinance.

No one commented about the proposed changes when it was talked about at Monday's City Council meeting.

Westbrook suggested crafting a new policy in Ceres modeled after ones in Modesto and Turlock, including a $500 fine for a misdemeanor conviction.

Contracts awarded

In other action, the council awarded a $1.16 million contract to Knife River Construction to construct the next phase of the Hatch Road bicycle and pedestrian walkway. The work extends the trail from Central to Richland avenues.

Contractor Ross Carroll of Oakdale filed a protest because he was considered a non-responsive bidder since it failed to properly submit paperwork relating to being a Disadvantaged Business.

Wells recommended against rejecting all the bids and going back out to bid saying the city is on a strict time schedule to underground the TID canal when it is emptied in November.

Wells said the city could not take a chance in the company possibly not being a federally qualifying Disadvantaged Business since the contractor must be approved by Caltrans and could possibly result in a loss of reimbursement by the federal government.

In another action, the council awarded a $852,340 contract to Conco-West of Manteca to build two wells at Smyrna Park to replace one that no longer meets quality standards.

A representative of Traviloi Construction of Visalia protested his lowest bid being rejected since he also failed to correctly submit documents for bonding. Wells defended the city for its strict policy, saying contractors had "better double check your bids."