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Green Bay committee set to discuss nuisance littering

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – A nuisance issue causing years of frustration for Green Bay residents, alderpersons and city staff will once again be up for discussion, and possible action, at the Protection and Policy Committee meeting Monday, April 26.

The nuisance issue is unsolicited advertising newspapers littering residential lawns, driveways, sidewalks, aprons and storm drains.

“Our inspections division has received complaints in regards to the free newspapers,” said Bill Paape, housing and zoning enforcement coordinator. “We are just as passionate about wanting to solve this. We want to do our part to, you know, to remedy the situation because it is a lot of resources that we spend trying to (stop it). We’ve been trying for years to find a solution and we’ve yet to to find one.”

Paape said the publication is called Community Snapshots, and is supposed to be delivered on a weekly basis, but there is no rhyme or reason to as who gets the publication and when.

City staff say they have reached out to Gannett Newspapers, as well as the Green Bay Press-Gazette, those behind the publication, on numerous occasions, but have never received any cooperation.

“Yes, (we’ve reached out) multiple times,” said Rachel Maes, assistant city attorney. “No response.”

Paape said he too has “reached out to the Press-Gazette and Gannett on multiple occasions, and has not had any luck with remedying the issue.”

Maes said the obstacle the city runs into is Gannett, which owns the Press-Gazette, employs independent contractors to deliver the free papers, which are the ones essentially violating the city’s littering ordinance.

“I’ve been a prosecutor my entire law career, and if I could go after Gannett for this rubbish, I would,” she said. “If Gannett was the one throwing newspapers on people’s aprons or on their driveways, I would absolutely encourage that citations be written against Gannett. But the fact of the matter is they hire independent contractors to run their routes, and unless we catch those independent contractors, it is really difficult to enforce our ordinance. It’s difficult to hold them accountable because these drivers are coming through at four in the morning. And we can’t go after Gannett because they are using independent contractors.”

Green Bay resident Robert Miller, who has worked to halt the paper’s distribution for more than a year, said Gannett should be held accountable.

“They (Gannett) know full well what is going on,” Miller said at the committee meeting last month. “They’re contracting with these people knowing that they are breaking ordinances. That has to yield to some culpability. This is a tremendously frustrating process. It is time for the City of Green Bay to come forward with solutions.”

Last month, the committee approved what members called a multi-prong approach to tackling the nuisance issue:

• Request staff to create a resolution expressing the city’s concerns to Gannett Newspapers, which the full council could/would vote on at an upcoming meeting.

• Review the current legal notices contract with Gannett as to the ability to cancel, terminate or not renew.

• Refer to the inspections department for a possible public campaign concerning these issues

“I think it is very, very important that we look at that contract with Gannett regarding our publication,” District 5 Alderperson Craig Stevens said at last month’s meeting. “That needs to be pulled. Gannett is not working with us, so it is time to stop spending tax dollars on Gannett.”

The city entered into a contract with the Green Bay Press-Gazette naming it the city’s official newspaper for approximately $50,000 last year.

That contract is set to expire this year on May 31.

Staff is expected to update the committee at the committee meeting next week.

“This, to me, is an environmental nuisance and safety hazard,” said District 10 Alderperson Mark Steuer at the March committee meeting. “I don’t want this stuff on my front porch either, but they won’t listen. We need to let them know in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable.”

The Protection and Policy meeting will be held virtually at 5 p.m. Monday, April 26, and can be accessed through the city’s website: greenbaywi.gov.

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