Flame goes out on burn barrels in Greencastle

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

The flame has been extinguished on burn barrels in the Borough of Greencastle.

At its regular meeting Monday evening the borough council amended the town’s open burning ordinance to prohibit the use of any incinerator or container not approved for burning, specifically burn barrels. The council has over the years fielded complaints from residents about the burning of garbage in burn barrels, which was also not allowed under the previous ordinance. The law still allows open fires for cooking of food and recreational purposes and sets specific instructions for burning yard waste.

The change was approved on a 7-1 vote.

Prior to the vote borough resident Robert Wertime questioned whether the ordinance change had been properly advertised and available for review by the public. He said he contacted the borough office following the newspaper advertising of the ordinance change and it was not provided to him. Borough officials offered him an opportunity to review the ordinance at the meeting.

Wertime asked if the ban included burning in wire screened receptacles that are not fully enclosed like burn barrels, but have screening for spark arrest.

“I think council’s intention was to eliminate those too,” reacted council president Charles Eckstine.

“We don’t want people playing games with us like they have in the past. That’s the reason we are having to take this action. We’ve tried to make opportunities for residents where they could use a burn barrel, but the public doesn’t realize what a hazard if has caused to those who live near someone who is not responsible and wants to burn anything and everything. That’s where the problem lies.

“And enforcing that is a real problem for our police department. Besides that’s not their primary job anyhow. We felt that the answer is no burn barrels period.”

Borough resident Robert Jones addressed the council prior to its vote explaining that he currently burns yard waste in a barrel and burning it in his small yard is not an option. “There just isn’t room,” he said.

Mayor Robert Eberly said, “The problem with burn barrels is some people do not operate them becomes a real eyesore.”

Jones countered, “I’ve seen worse things than burn barrels in this community.”

While the ordinance prohibits the use of burn barrels, it maintains the right for residents to “set open fires solely for the purpose of disposing yard waste.” Such fires must be attended, not include any garbage or rubbish, not cause a hazardous condition, not be done on any street, alley or sidewalk, be done between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. and not include anything brought from outside the borough.

Council member Craig Myers was the lone no vote for the amendment.

“If you want to get rid of burn barrels. If that’s what this is about, just say it. Don’t jump around it as an issue of health,” he told his fellow council members. “We have rules and regulations in effect right now to regulate burn barrels. This has no more teeth.

“Instead of using the health issue as the grounds, just say that. If you don’t want to have burn barrels, great. I’m all about it. They are eyesores. I agree. If you want to eliminate burn barrels, say it. But if you say they can do it on the ground, people are going to end up burning whatever they want to burn and I think we’re going to run into more problems.”

Myers said this could especially be a problem during dry parts of year. He noted that there are ordinances already on books to address the illegal burning of garbage and that the police have no time to enforce it.

“This ordinance is easier to enforce than the old one,” countered Womack.

Myers said, “But at whose expense?”

Officials noted that all open burning is banned in neighboring towns of Chambersburg and Waynesboro, however Chambersburg collects yard waste and there is composting in the Waynesboro area.

Council member Frank Webster, who made the motion to approve the amended ordinance, noted that leaves can be taken to the Greencastle-Antrim School District’s Tayamentasachta Environmental Center and there are other options in the county for disposal of yard waste. He offered his help to anyone needing assistance with such disposal.

Outdoor furnaces had previously been banned in the borough.

Violations of the open burning ordinance carry a fine of $300.

Womack said borough residents can dispose of their empty burn barrels during the spring bulk collection day.