PUTNEY—The Selectboard discussed piles of tires on Putney’s Old Route 5 at a May 6 meeting. Although board members estimated these tires have been there since at least the 1960s and 1970s, the town would like to remove them.
However, several unknowns make it difficult to begin: Whose property are the tires on, and is the town empowered to order their removal?
Putney resident Steve Bouch attended the May 6 meeting to register his complaint with what was called an eyesore, and the board discussed the likelihood the tire pile is a health and safety problem.
“There’s at least two-hundred tires there,” board Chair Steve Hed said. Although the board’s consensus was the pile has not been growing, Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard disagreed: “There seems to be newer ones on top."
Because the board agreed tires are an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes, members will reach out to Fire Chief Tom Goddard, who is also responsible for investigating and enforcing Putney’s health codes. Hed also asked if the tires present a fire hazard.
Stoddard said she contacted the state Agency of Natural Resources three years ago. She said the agency likes towns to report tire piles so they can inventory them. “We did,” she said, “and we waited, but nothing happened."
Last year, Stoddard contacted the agency again, and she said the state asked on whose property the tires sat.
She said it’s hard to determine, because the tire piles seem to straddle two lots with different owners. When she reported this to the agency, she said the worker would enter the complaint into the state database, contact both property owners, and send out an environmental compliance officer.
Still, the tires remain.
“Do we need to follow through, or will this just disappear in the Agency of Natural Resources?” asked board Vice-Chair Joshua Laughlin.
“I can be pretty persistent,” replied Stoddard.
“Is there statutory jurisdiction to make the property owners clean it up?” asked Laughlin, prompting a discussion on what Stoddard described as “junk around people’s houses."
“We have no ordinance, no enforcement tool,” Stoddard said, adding, “the danger is, it’s a matter of perspective. Without anything backing me, it’s hard to have that conversation with people,” when residents complain to her about the state of their neighbors’ yards.
“It’s unfair to arbitrarily enforce it,” said Laughlin.
“We could start by looking at it from a health perspective to define ‘junk,’” suggested board Clerk R. Scott Henry.
Stoddard agreed to talk to Goddard and “keep on the state.” She said she will also research relevant statutes and ordinances, if they exist, and report back to the Selectboard.
“If the state can’t help in an orderly fashion, we can get a team of people to clean up the tires if we can find a place to dispose of the tires,” Laughlin said, adding, “the Agency of Natural Resources might have their hands full with bigger complaints."