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Council votes to temporarily close Gary-New Duluth street to discourage illegal dumping

The three-month blockage could provide time for neighbors to come up with a long-term solution to the costly problem.

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Three mattresses and an easy chair sit on or along 108th Avenue West near a city “No Dumping” sign. The garbage was dumped after the city spent several hundred dollars last week cleaning up the avenue. City councilors are considering closing the road between Becks Road and a point near Dickson Street to reduce illegal dumping. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

By a unanimous vote Monday night, the Duluth City Council passed a resolution authorizing city staff to temporarily shut down a stretch of 108th Avenue West, where people have been abandoning unwanted items, including old mattresses, recliners and even toilets.

The resolution was introduced by 5th District Councilor Janet Kennedy and by At Large Councilor Derek Medved.

"This is a hotspot, and this is costing the city a lot of money," said Medved, noting that the city has had to bear the financial burden for hauling away junk tossed to the side of the road.

The exact timing of the closure has yet to be determined, but Kennedy said: "We are looking at about a three-month period. ... That's what we're proposing right now. It could be longer depending on what the findings are and some of the things that we can work on.

"I want community members to know that there's going to be a process for community input during the three-month period of time, as well as after. I am looking forward to having a community meeting of some sort to really look at some of the ways that people were impacted by the closure," she said.

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The segment of road to be blocked off is located between Becks Road and a point about 300 feet north of Dickson Street. Kennedy said no homeowners will lose access to their property as a result of the closure.

Medved, too, called for more discussion of the issue and some of the possible solutions, saying: "Nothing is off limits here. Is it lighting? Is it cameras? Is it waste management? And I'm not talking about the garbage company."

Medved suggested the city may be able to offer some sort of program to help people more easily dispose of unwanted items in a responsible manner.

"Hopefully, in my mind the community will come together," he said.

At Large Councilor Barb Russ said the issue of abandoned trash unfortunately is not unique to 108th Avenue West.

"I think there are a lot of other places all over our city. So there's a lot of student furniture out on the boulevard that has been sitting there for quite a few months. And we need to figure out some way to deal with that. It's very unsightly," she said.

At Large Councilor Zack Filipovich agreed the issue is larger, saying: "It does cost everyone when this happens. When these materials are found at the side of the road or in a creek bed or elsewhere, they are brought to WLSSD (the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District) for processing, and if we're able to catch the person who illegally dumped these materials, that person can be served with a fine. But if not ... the entire community pays for that. through our solid-waste management fee on our property tax bill and through our garbage-collection services, there's a fee that we all pay as well, and that goes to deal with these abandoned waste items."

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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