By JESSE BURKHARDT
The Bingen City Council is asking local citizens to come to a public hearing on Tuesday, May 5, to discuss a possible city-wide ban on outdoor burning.
The city has been working on a possible permanent ban on burning within the city limits. To make the move easier on residents, however, council members are hoping to provide some options to burning.
Offering ways for people to dispose of tree limbs and yard debris without burning is one of the main focuses of the draft ordinance being developed.
"One consideration would be that twice a year, for a month-long period, the city would pick up a certain number of bags of yard debris. That would be in November and April," explained Bingen City Administrator Jan Brending. "But the city can't provide pickup for everything; that's not what we're here for."
Other conservation ideas include measures such as composting, which lessens the load on landfills.
"The city can't `gift' services," Brending said. "But maybe we can provide a minimum amount of pickup as a community service event."
Brending said the city is exploring ways to work with the Klickitat County Solid Waste Department to establish a brush-chipping site again. There was a part-time chipping operation at the Bingen recycling site east of SDS Lumber Co., but the facility was closed a few years ago.
"We can't make the County Commissioners do anything, but we can talk to them and try to address ways to dispose of yard and garden debris," Brending said.
Brending pointed out, however, that the county's chipping site never accepted grass and leaves.
"That was part of the problem and why it was closed," Brending added. "Everyone thought they could haul that material down there."
The city already has a summer burn ban designed to reduce the chances of a wildfire. That ban goes into effect June 1.
Washington state law already directs that the city cannot issue a burn permit unless the burn pile is at least 50 feet from any structure. Given the number of relatively small yards in the Bingen community, that means most Bingen residents would not be legally allowed to have fires on their property.
"The Fire Department can't issue burn permits any more, unless the burning is 50 feet from any structure. And structure includes fences," Brending noted. "The fire chief has been issuing burn permits. But now that we're aware of that law, we would not issue the permit."
Further, by state law, if someone complains about a fire -- even a controlled fire on private property -- it has to be put out immediately.
"To meet state requirements, it is harder and harder to do any burning on your property," Brending said. "The Washington Department of Ecology is interested in working with us to provide education about why burning is not good."
The public hearing on the issue is set for May 5, beginning at 7 p.m. in Bingen City Hall. It will be a public hearing on the proposed burn ban as well as potential alternatives to burning.
"We want to hear from the public," Brending said. "We have a draft ordinance and we really need to hear from citizens."
Because the city would need time to consider citizen input and work that into a new ordinance, a burn ban is not expected to be voted on the evening of the hearing.