Chair awaits bulk trash collection on Foster Street in June. The twice-a-year bulk trash pickups give residents a chance to dispose of large items, but illegal fly dumping is an ongoing problem. Credit: Adina Keeling

Thursday’s virtual Fifth Ward meeting focused on two persistent complaints in the community: noise and trash.

Residents said they are fed up with loudspeakers blasting music at all hours of the night. Many expressed frustration that the Police Department is not more aggressively enforcing the city’s noise ordinance.

The ward also has had a long battle with fly dumping), Council Member Bobby Burns (5th Ward) said at the meeting, referring to placing bulk items outside without a permit. Staff from the city’s Sanitation Department spoke with residents about how to handle this issue.

Noise ordinance

Several Fifth Ward residents complained that the EPD isn’t taking enough action on their noise complaints.

One reason could be that the police are short-staffed

“The Evanston Police Department is 27 officers short,” said interim Police Chief Richard Eddington. “It is critical that we have people to answer the calls and staff the patrol division first.”

Another problem might be the noise ordinance itself.

“We have been looking at modifying our noise ordinance to make it less difficult to enforce it,” Burns said. “I have received several complaints from residents.”

The City Council discussed the vagueness of the city’s noise ordinance in April. The Human Services Committee reviewed the ordinance further. 

The ordinance prohibits “any loud, unnecessary or unusual noise which annoys a reasonable person,” but the committee found that definition to be vague and subjective.

The committee discussed measuring noise with decibels in an effort to objectively enforce the ordinance. One suggestion the committee made is the sound level can’t be louder than 75 decibels when measured from the property line of where the noise originates.

Changes haven’t been made to the ordinance yet. 

To help Fifth Ward residents ensure that their noise complaints are acted upon, Eddington and EPD Sergeant Chelsea Brown explained best practices for submitting complaints.

Residents who call the police with noise complaints aren’t required to sign citations or reveal their identity to officers. But it helps with enforcing the ordinance if they do, Eddington said.

“The officer has to experience the noise violation for them to take action themselves,” Eddington said. “If the violation has stopped prior to our arrival, we by ourselves can’t take enforcement.”

However, if complainants don’t want to reveal their identity or come out and speak with the officer, they can text a tip to EPD, Brown said. The officers just need detailed information about the noise, such as its location.

To send a tip, text “crimes” or 274637, and start the message with EPDTIP so that it goes to the right department. It should include as much information about the issue as possible.

Fly dumping

People discarding large items behind buildings, in alleyways and parks is a huge issue in the Fifth Ward, Burns said. Fly dumping is when unknown parties illegally dump garbage, and then property owners are stuck with paying the special pickup fee. 

In 2021, there were 54 reports of fly dumping in the Fifth Ward, according to city records. Unregulated dumping can draw rats and decrease property value.

City Public Works Director Edgar Cano and Sanitation Supervisor Kevin Johnson spoke with Fifth Ward residents about the issue during Thursday’s virtual ward meeting. 

There were 54 reports of fly dumping last year in the Fifth Ward, according to the presentation Sanitation Supervisor Kevin Johnson, gave during Thursday’s virtual Fifth Ward meeting. Credit: Presentation by Kevin Johnson, City of Evanston Sanitation Supervisor

The city requires special pickups to dispose of large furniture like mattresses and box springs, as well as for major cleanup efforts and excessive trash from moving in or moving out.

Special pickups cost $100 for the first 3 cubic yards of trash. It’s $25 for each additional cubic yard. Fees will be placed on the resident’s water bill. 

Residents can call 311 to schedule a special pickup or report fly dumping.

The city offers free removal of up to 6 cubic yards of bulk garbage in the spring and the fall, though condos that have private contracts for trash and recycling can’t participate in the city’s bulk pickup program.

Most of the fall dates for free pickups have passed. But if your normal trash collection day is on Mondays, then your free bulk trash collection day is Friday, Oct. 7. 

On the east side of the Fifth Ward, trash tends to overflow during Northwestern University’s move-in and move-out periods, Johnson said. Typically, the university pays the city to collect the excessive trash during June and September, when students are moving in or out. But this September the university didn’t pay, he said.

“Unfortunately, there was just not a timely communication for this current fall season,” Johnson said. “And this collection, unfortunately, was not able to be collected this year.”

Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the Evanston RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative...

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  1. It is always interesting to see how much residents’ actual concerns deviate from the nonsense that preoccupies the council agenda.

    People are concerned with basic quality of life in their neighborhood? Who knew?

    From council activity you would think that running around naked and
    making it easier to burgle houses were the main issues of the day!