MANCHESTER — Several South End residents are ready to “talk trash” with aldermen this week, after the city announced it will no longer collect rubbish outside their homes — as it has for decades in some instances — because they live on private ways.
Donna and John Steele say they’ve lived at 116 Gabrielle St. in Manchester’s Ward 8 since 1988, and have never had an issue with the city collecting trash at the end of their driveway until they received a hand-delivered letter from the city’s public works department on Dec. 31 informing them they had been placing their trash on a private road and, “Effective immediately you will need to place trash for collection out onto Gabrielle Street.”
“We’re out there cleaning up the driveway from snow, and this guy comes up and gives us this letter,” said Donna Steele. “We’ve been here 31 years, never had a problem. And we’re not the only ones. Why now?”
A look at the locations using the city’s GIS system shows some residents are being asked to drag their trash bins 60 yards from their homes, while others must pull them about 40 yards.
Newly elected Ward 8 Alderman Mike Porter said he intends to ask the board Tuesday to have trash removal reinstated along the Gabrielle Street passageways until aldermen can address the matter “with a full vetting of the issues.”
According to information available through the Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds, the area around Gabrielle Street once housed airmen from the Grenier Field Airbase.
Gabrielle Street is a public way, with at least four inlets connecting with the public way, each of which has single-family and duplex homes. The houses are not directly on Gabrielle Street, but are connected to the street via passageways, with each passageway containing at least four or more homes, including some duplexes.
The Steeles say for 31 years they have “faithfully paid their property taxes” and received city services, outside of snow plowing.
At 116 Gabrielle St., the Steeles were given a location to drop their trash roughly 180 feet away from their driveway.
“I am 55 with one heart attack under my belt,” said John Steele. “While I am completely capable of bringing barrels all the way to the DPW currently, I see my capabilities fading. I don’t understand how the city feels that providing less service for the same amount of taxes is acceptable. How can this happen? How did this happen?”
Manchester Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard said in an email to a Union Leader reporter he isn’t sure how many similar neighborhoods may exist across Manchester.
“I do not have a count of private roads in the city, but we do not maintain, drive on or provide trash collection service on any of them,” Sheppard wrote.
“Recently, one of our refuse trucks had an issue with ice on one of these private driveways,” wrote Sheppard in the email. “The driver called our highway superintendent to salt what he thought was a public street, and was then informed that the street is private. Once it came to our superintendent’s attention that our refuse crews were driving on a private road, he made the correct decision to stop driving on the driveways.”
Porter said he is upset with the way residents were notified of the impending change in rubbish collection, saying the matter should have been brought before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen before action was taken.
“While I have immense respect for Mr. Sheppard and the highway department as a whole, the city’s 30-plus year history of collecting refuse in front of the homes located on the passageways off Gabrielle Street demonstrates implicit acceptance of the passageways as public streets,” Porter said in a statement.
Porter cited a 2007 New Hampshire Supreme Court decision in Hersh v. Plonski.
“The city cannot claim lack of knowledge of these passageways,” said Porter. “City water and sewer service was added to the homes in this area. In 1996 or 1997, the Steeles had a sewer backup which was rectified by the city of Manchester. This action, combined with the fact there is a 30-plus year history of continually collecting refuse in front of the homes on these passageways demonstrates the implicit acceptance as spelled out in Hersh.”
He said the city “could have reasonably discovered these passageways when city water and sewer were installed or maintained.”
“The homeowners are paying their taxes and if this service is impeded or stopped, the residents should expect a discount on their taxes,” said Porter. “The residents simply wish to have their refuse picked up in the same manner as they have been accustomed to for over 30 years.”
Ron VanLoenen at 29 Gabrielle St. said he never received any notification his rubbish collection was ending.
“The truck just stopped coming,” said VanLoenen, who is disabled. “After calling and calling, three weeks later I get an email about it. I’m not dragging my cans down the street. Just pick up my trash like you’ve been doing for 19 years. I’m not asking for anything they weren’t doing before.”