An aggressive approach to collecting junk TVs from the curb could put property owners at risk of being victimized from those who illegally dump electronics.
Rachel Miller hasn't lived in her home off James Street on the East side for two years. She hasn’t put out trash or recycling bins out on the curb for just as long. However, at the end of August, she received a bill from the city of Madison for $120. The fine was for the abatement of three abandoned TVs left on her curb.
These were not Miller's televisions.
"And the first time we knew there was a problem, there was a bill in the mail from the city of Madison," said Miller.
The city believes Miller may be more of an exception than the norm, but she is concerned the city's aggressive approach to collecting junk TVs may put property owners at risk of becoming targets for illegal dumpers.
"I feel like we're already a victim of a crime and then on top of that, the city has got a super highway to my tax bill to make me pay for it," she said.
Miller said she called several layers of people throughout the city's streets department. She said everyone told her the same thing -- she would have to take responsibility for those abandoned televisions.
Since 2012, the city started collecting junk televisions as soon as workers became aware they were left on the curb. In years past, one could pay for a sticker that would allow them to place the set on the curb. These days, people must bring their television set to the recycling center off Badger Road and pay $10. If they dump it, the property owner will receive a $40 fine for each set. For city workers, it all comes down to safety.
"What was happening was they were being vandalized by people who were just breaking the picture tubes for kicks," said George Dreckmann, recycling coordinator for the city. He added the electronics were also being broken apart by scrap metal thieves.
"So that's where the policy got into place," Dreckmann said. "We now pick it up right away."
Ten dollars of the fine goes to the recycling cost. The rest covers administration costs, such as billing. Dreckmann stressed to News 3 that the city was not getting rich from the fine.
Miller's home on James is up for sale and is surrounded by two small apartments. She currently lives on a farm in Stoughton and makes it back to Madison every now and then. She has no idea when the TVs were left or even where they were placed on her property.
After several days, Miller contacted her alder and was able to work out something with the city. She will no longer have to pay the fee, but she said she it took a lot of work to make an appeal, especially since there is no formal appeal process.
"I feel like I'm one of those people that goes out of my way to not pay things that aren't my responsibility," Miller said. "But I think unless someone's really prepared to go through a lot of red tape, and talk to a lot of people, and make a lot of phone calls, they're going to be stuck paying it."
WHERE YOU CAN DUMP OFF ELECTRONICS FOR FREE:
Dreckmann said a lot of people don't want to pay the $10 recycling fee, much less a $40 fine. He suggested going to stores that have recycling programs. Stores like Best Buy and American TV have programs that will take your television sets for free.
Goodwill won't take television sets, but Dreckmann said the store has a national recycling agreement with Dell and will take back any used computer monitor and equipment.