You'll still receive a hefty fine and perhaps even perform some community service work, but being caught disregarding leaf/branch collection laws in Ridgewood won't carry any jail time.
On Wednesday night, the Ridgewood Village Council formally introduced a leaf and debris collection ordinance initially containing a provision that would have allowed the municipal judge to remand violators to a 90-day prison sentence, as well as a hit to the wallet.
While a potential stay behind bars isn't going to happen after the council deemed it too "draconian" a penalty, residents may not want to test the village on this one – the ordinance still has sharp teeth.
If convicted of mixing branches and debris into the leaf pile and/or not cleaning up the mess in a timely manner, the violator is subject to a fine ranging from $200 to $1,000, an amount determined by the municipal judge.
Get caught and convicted on breaking the law twice? Watch out – those nabbed will have 48 hours to remove the evidence properly or pay the disposal costs the village incurred, as well as an additional "administrative" fee, up to $150. That cost would be tallied as a lien on the property, according to Village Attorney Matt Rogers.
A period of up to 40 hours of community service might also be required, the ordinance stipulates.
The "tough love" approach seems necessary after a rare October snow storm created chaos and widespread anger in 2011, according to officials.
Thus far the threat of harsh punishment hasn't yielded compliance, according to Streets Department head John Spano. About 150 violators were issued summonses after last weekend's storm, he said.
"The DPW has kind of turned a blind eye to violations," said Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck. "It's absurd what people are getting away with."
Hauck cautioned it won't be easy enforcing the rules this year but is manageable so long as the residents know the village means business.
"I think the key is communication to the residents," she said. "It's just going to be a retraining period. This year is not going to be easy...it's going to be like being a strict school teacher for one year and everybody will be on board. If the ordinance has to be tough, I don't really care how tough it is."
"The residents want to comply," added a like-minded Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh, who called last year "a glitch". "I think that the residents are smart enough if we say we're going to enforce it, we start getting the tags out there...they're going to pay a fine."
Notification of the leaf policy will be coming out in the next few weeks through social media as well as in mailings to homes.
Leaf collection pickups begin on Oct. 22, three days after yard waste season ends.
Spano asked that residents not place pumpkins in the leaf piles, nor branches or other debris. It damages equipment and limits revenue from mulching leaves, he said.
Branches and yard waste can instead be taken to the recycling center during leaf collection season.
Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.