The lot will only be open three days a week during daytime hours starting July 1

A yard-waste drop-off service provided residents of Hannibal is about to be curtailed because of ongoing abuses of the program.

Currently the yard-waste lot, located at Warren Barrett Drive and Ninth Street, is left open for drop-offs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But on the recommendation of Street Department Supervisor Mike McHargue the City Council agreed during its Tuesday night meeting at city hall to limit the number of days per week that the lot will be open (to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) and to curtail the hours during which yard-waste materials may be left (from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

The action was taken after McHargue presented photographs of illegal drop-offs occurring.

"About six weeks ago I installed two deer cameras to record the times and usage of the lot as well as trying to identify commercial landscapers and lawn care professionals dumping large quantities of yard debris on the lot," he said, noting that some of the tree debris reached 36 inches in diameter.

During the month of May, McHargue identified seven commercial haulers dropping large limbs and other debris at the lot.

"All seven were contacted," he reported. "Three were cited and the remaining warned, with one reloading his debris. Only one was identified as having a city business license."

While intended to be a service provided solely for Hannibal residents, McHargue's investigation revealed at least five vehicles with Illinois license plates making drop-offs.

The abuses turned up by McHargue are likely just the tip of a much bigger "iceberg."

"There are numerous vehicles that I believe are for profit that I didn't investigate because the cameras didn't catch the plates or they were unreadable. Several vehicles use the lot three and four times a week," said the Street Department official. "There were numerous vehicles pulling trailers with lawnmowers dumping grass and leaves. Of the ones I contacted all admitted doing it for profit. None stated they had a city business license."

After contacting some of the alleged culprits the abuses have continued, but with a more cloak-and-dagger approach.

"Since making contact with several users of the lot I have had vehicles on camera with trash bags covering their plates and trucks with what looks like plates removed," said McHargue. "I have also had vehicles in the lot during the nighttime hours, with one at 3 a.m."

The cost of the abuses is starting to add up, according to McHargue.

"I am estimating the amount of for-profit haulers to account for over 50 percent of the debris in the lot," he said. "In the month of May there were 26 40-yard loads taken from the lot. This cost the city $5,200."

Another planned change will be staffing the yard-waste lot during the hours it is open.

"I currently have a part-time position open and would like to hire a person for this position," said McHargue. "His duties would also include loading the dumpsters, spraying weeds on the lot and keeping the lot picked up. Savings alone would more than pay his salary.

"I do not have the manpower or the budget to commit a full-time employee to the lot."

City Manager Jeff LaGarce noted that the issues now being experienced were also seen when the yard-waste lot was located at Seventh Street and Colfax Avenue.

"It's not a new problem. It's one that has been going on for years, only now it has reached a critical point," said LaGarce.

"It is a shame it has gone to this extreme," added Councilman Jim Van Hoose.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com