With freshman already here, and the rest of the 6,000 member Lehigh University student body converging on Bethlehem over the weekend, city officials announced Thursday that enforcement of trash and other neighborhood nuisance issues will be stepped up over the weekend.
Chief Code and Housing Office Michael Palos will personally be making the rounds in the SouthSide neighborhood around the college to ensure city ordinances are followed by the incoming student population.
“He's going to be warning students about trash and citing those where the situation isn't resolved,” Mayor John Callahan said at a press conference held at Packer and Birkel avenues, on the edge of the campus.
For the first time, due a recent city ordinance change, tenants can be fined directly for trash at their rented dwellings. Previously, only landlords were cited.
The fines which are $200 for a first offense, $500 for the second and $1,000 for the third, are deliberately high and meant to deter the behavior, Palos said, adding that citing the landlords for tenant behavior is ineffectual and unfair.
“Our hope is that when we talk to the kids, they'll comply,” Palos said. “Now knowing they'll be ... fined, we would hope word gets out.”
“Hopefully, the community will appreciate the efforts,” he added.
City ordinances have also been changed to require one trash can and one recycling can per tenant instead of per unit, Callahan said.
“More tenants means more garbage and that trash should be disposed of in a container, not bags which can tear and lead to litter scattered around the streets,” he said.
“We are taking a very proactive approach to both education and enforcement,” he added.
In addition to the code officer, the city plans to step up both police bike and foot patrols in the area, Callahan said.
Lehigh University's Dale Kochard, assistant vice president of Community and Regional Affairs at Lehich, said the college tries to educate the students to be good neighbors, and stands behind the city's efforts.
“We do inform them we will hold them accountable for their actions in the community,” Kochard said.
To help with the potential garbage problem, the university is providing dumpsters for student use at the edge of campus and encouraging them to use them, he added.
Lehigh also plans a “Hawkwatch” program, similar to a block watch, and engaging students on subjects such as how to report a crime, Kochard said.
“We plan to engage the students,” he said.
Despite the plan for increased enforcement, Callahan said he welcomes the students and hopes they will get to explore other parts of Bethlehem away from the Lehigh Campus as well.