No one likes paying fines, and that may explain why a number of Colorado restaurant owners think the city’s recent law on grease trap pumping is another ordinance that hits them with a fine.
Just a week ago, there were 39 such cases on the Municipal Court docket awaiting Judge Carla Sikes’ attention.
“And she’s a hanging judge,” as one business owner put it.
Told by email of her reputation, Sikes responded with a smiley face.
Here’s the situation:
In 2015, the city of Pueblo Colorado adopted a new ordinance to help keep commercial grease and oils from ending up in the city’s sewer pipes, where they can bring everything to a halt.
Simply put, the city’s 395 licensed food-service and automotive businesses have to file semi-annual reports with the city’s wastewater department showing they have had their grease traps properly cleaned and any sludge and oils disposed of by a licensed company.
No do-it-yourselfers allowed.
“We didn’t really implement the reporting requirement until this year so we could get everyone educated on the program,” said Nancy Keller, wastewater director.
Keller said she thinks the outreach program was successful. Doug Gradisar, an attorney representing a local unnamed franchise owner, said there are still plenty of bugs in the system.
“We’re not challenging the need for this, just how it’s worked thus far,” he said.
Keller said that when the June reporting date came around this summer, 180 businesses didn’t file grease reports.
They were then reminded by letter, and most complied. Only 43 “non-reporters” were summoned to Municipal Court to explain themselves.
Keller said these businesses aren’t necessarily scofflaws.
“One owner had followed the rules and even filled out her paperwork but didn’t want to turn it in,” she said.
The reason being the restaurant has an apartment house next door that frequently has sewer line problems. The restaurant owner was concerned that by signing the city report, she was assuming responsibility for all future sewer problems.
Others said they didn’t get the reminder letter. Or they returned papers that didn’t arrive at city offices.
Sikes has an express lane policy for Municipal Court. Anyone who wants to just get in and get out can just plead guilty and pay a fine. Last Friday, those fines ranged between $250 and $500, and 17 businesses just paid and left.
“Those are pretty steep fines,” sputtered a restaurant owner.
That was apparently a shared view because a dozen businesses owners, or their lawyers, entered not-guilty pleas and want to go to trial.
As for Keller, she has the soft-spoken cheerfulness of a favorite Aunt Nancy. Told about the grumbling of some restaurant owners, she sighed.
“I know. They think we’re being mean to them.”
Actually they don’t. But Judge Sikes could be another story.
To prevent your grease trap from getting clogged with food solids, consider installing The Drain Strainer so you won’t have grease trap pumping issues.