Vail councilman defies bear law
VAIL ” Vail Town Councilman Farrow Hitt wanted to comply with the wildlife ordinance that he helped pass. He got a “wildlife proof” trash bin for Simba Run, the Vail condo complex he manages.
But he decided that he had to leave it open during the daytime because its heavy doors were too dangerous for his staff to open and close, he said ” even if that meant getting a ticket from the police.
“If someone was lifting that lid up and it fell back down on their hand, it would take their hand off,” he said.
Simba Run did get a warning on June 15 for violating the wildlife ordinance. The Town Council passed the strict law last year after several bears entered homes in Vail. Wildlife officials killed two bears and put two more in captivity.
Hitt said his trash hauler, Waste Management, should provide him with a trash bin with doors that aren’t so dangerous.
“I asked Waste Management if they would come up with something else that people could use, and they said, ‘I’m sorry, the town of Vail passed the bear ordinance. If you have a problem, talk to the town of Vail,'” Hitt said. “I said, ‘Well, I am the town of Vail. I’m one of the council members who passed the law, and it’s a necessary thing to do. We have a problem and it needs to be addressed.'”
Hitt said he’s surprised at the lack of cooperation from Waste Management.
“I think it’s in their best interest to come up with a viable solution before someone does get their hands or fingers chopped,” he said.
It should not be difficult for the company to come up with a new design, Hitt said.
“We put a man on the moon,” he said. “We can get a Dumpster lid that doesn’t chop people’s hands off.”
Jerry Valasquez, site manager for Waste Management, said if the lids were any lighter, they wouldn’t be bear-proof.
“That’s what the town of Vail wants,” he said.
Valasquez said the lids aren’t that heavy, though they have gotten some complaints from “little ladies.” The bin is not dangerous if it is used properly, Valasquez said.
Vail Police Detective Ryan Millbern, the town of Vail’s bear specialist, declined comment on the Simba Run case.
Safety of owners and guests trumped concerns of attracting wildlife into town, Hitt said.
“That was the lesser of the two evils that I had to choose from,” he said.
The complex leaves its trash bin open during the day with a rope-and-pulley system. The trash bin is closed during the night, Hitt said.
“The bears traditionally aren’t feeding in the daytime,” Hitt said.
The complex has had a few problems with wildlife getting into the trash bin, perhaps birds, Hitt said.
Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said leaving a “bear proof” trash bin open during the day defeats the purpose of having it.
“Certain bears are more active at night than during the daytime hours, but that doesn’t mean they’re not active during the daytime,” he said.
Hitt plans to get a “bear resistant” shed by this fall to house a trash bin with a standard, lighter lid. That would put him in compliance with the town’s law.
Until then, he’s prepared to get another warning, he said.
“If I have to get another ticket to protect owners and guests, so be it,” he said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.