BRUNSWICK – Thinking about picking up that old sandbox or grill off of someone’s tree lawn?

You might want to think twice about that.

Someone else’s trash might be another person’s treasure, but stopping to pick up that once-in-a-lifetime find can sometimes have its repercussions.

As one trash picker discovered earlier this month, the act can result in a citation in the city of Brunswick, which prohibits trash picking without first obtaining a permit.

After the individual who was cited contacted several city officials to complain this week, City Council’s Service, Utilities and Cable Committee is now rethinking the ordinance, trying to decide whether to prohibit trash picking altogether or continuing to require those interested in shopping from tree lawns to obtain a permit from city hall.

“The issue is with those individuals who pick through all of the trash and leave the debris everywhere,” said at-large Councilman Brian Ousley.

Under the current city ordinance, which was adopted in 1996, “no person shall collect garbage or rubbish within the city without first obtaining a valid permit or entering into a valid contract with the city as provided for in these ordinances or the resolutions of the city.”

Accordingly, the ordinance stipulates that a permit may be issued by the director of public service, without fee, for the hauling of rubbish, bulk rubbish or construction waste only from the premises of the permittee for a 24-hour period. Likewise, a permit is also available for the removal of specifically enumerated items that were previously discarded as rubbish, bulk rubbish or construction waste provided the permittee can produce written permission from the owner of said waste materials indicating transference of the property to the permittee, fully describing said items to be removed and assurance that said removal will not create conditions that are hazardous to the public.

These permits valid for only a 24-hour period and must include a description of items to be removed, Ousley said.

As chairman of the committee, Ward 1 Councilman Michael Abella said he believes the city has three options in the matter.

“Either we can say no to everyone or we can start charging a fee to obtain a permit from the service director,” Abella said. “Our other option is to make sure that the person removing the trash has the permission of the homeowner.”

Abella said that before making any changes to the existing law, the committee plans to research the subject in the next few weeks to determine how other jurisdictions tackle the situation. The most difficult aspect he said is likely to be enforcement of any changes.

“Most of this activity happens at night or in the early morning hours when there aren’t a whole lot of people around,” he said.

Ward 4 Councilman Anthony Capretta said he would be in favor of making changes, including adding a fee to obtain a 24-hour permit.

“This way, we have a record of who is picking up trash in the city and that person could be held accountable,” he said.

Ward 2 Councilman Vince Carl said he supports a complete prohibition.

“The residents in my ward don’t want to see this at all,” he said. “My residents hate (trash pickers),” he said.

Ousley said the he would not want to prohibit garbage picking altogether, which could actually hurt those individuals who are “down on their luck.”

“There are a lot of people in this world who are living to scrap and then there are those who are scrapping to live,” he said. “We have to make sure that we are fair to both.”

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