Sheridan Village Council discusses problems created by flushing wipes

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 12:32 pm on Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sheridan Village Councilman Derek Wagner reviews possible village projects and expenditures for 2014. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

SHERIDAN — Members of the Sheridan Village Council dealt with a full agenda at its regular meeting Tuesday evening, but no topic engaged the council more than the things residents are flushing down their toilets.

According to Village Superintendent Doug Lane, the thousands of disposable baby wipes being flushed into the village’s sewer system every week is starting to cost the village real money in terms of manpower, clogged pipes and even burned out water pumps.

“Those things have fibers in them and the pump won’t pull those fibers up,” Lane said. “Those wipes get caught up in those pumps and they burn out those $4,000 pumps in a heartbeat.”

Lane said the Department of Public Works has tried various techniques to stem this tide of baby wipes, including baskets to snag them before they can get into the pumps. The problem is, Lane said, is that the wipes — in large quantities and soaking wet — weigh so much that they’re impossible to lift long before the baskets are even full.

According to Village President Susan Wyckoff-McFarland, residents will receive notices in upcoming water bills asking that they halt the practice of flushing the wipes.

“We have to make it a point in the water bills so people see that,” Wyckoff-McFarland said. “We’ve had pumps go out because of this.”

Lane admitted the prohibition would be impossible to police, but noted that if the practice continues, residents could be looking at higher water bills in the future to cover the cost of replacing the burned out pumps.

The council also considered the possibility of hiring a part-time police officer to handle ordinance enforcement within the village. This is something council members have discussed at previous meetings, noting that current ordinances are difficult, if not impossible, to enforce due to the village’s lack of a police department.

Councilman Derek Wagner said he had a possible officer in mind, one who would be willing to work four hours per week at $20 per hour. The officer would handle enforcement issues, issue citations and file motions at the county courthouse.

“There are a lot of things in this town that could be cleaned up, but we don’t have the enforcement capacity to do it,” Wagner said.

Wyckoff-McFarland echoed Wagner’s frustration, saying, “Let’s face it. We’ve had problems and had no way to enforce our ordinances.”

Councilman Don Nassif expressed concern that — before an officer could really do the job council members are envisioning for him — the village’s ordinances needed a major overhaul. Many of the ordinances, Nassif said, are too vague or otherwise “unenforceable.”

“I would hate to pay somebody at this point to try to enforce ordinances that can’t be enforced,” Nassif said. “There are issues with our ordinances, especially where due process is concerned.”

Wagner suggested the council come up with some firm ideas of what the village’s ordinances should actually be, and then take those ideas to professional legal council to make sure they are enforceable and “massage” them where needed.

The council agreed to consider the matter further at a future date.

In other business, council members took their first look at a proposed 2014 budget; basically this was simply a blue-sky session to try to determine where village funds may be needed in the upcoming fiscal year.

Some of the “needs and wants” under consideration are new water and sewer pumps, well testing, chip seal, new trees, interior painting of the town’s water tower, park improvements and possible new signage for the popular farmer’s market.

Nothing in the 2014 budget is hard and fast at this point; council members will hammer out details in upcoming meetings.

The council meets next at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14.

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