It’s common for Ohio University students living along Athens’ so-called party streets to wake up to a ticket from local officials taped to their door.
Those tickets, from the Athens Office of Code Enforcement, typically claim there is loose trash — e.g., beer cans, pizza boxes, solo cups — around the premises of the property.
City code officers hand out the citations most frequently during weekend mornings when OU is in session, or just after peak party hours.
A first violation trash ticket is $50, a new fee that Athens City Council approved Oct. 20. Additional violations increase $25 each until $150.
City officials handed out almost 1,400 tickets, which earned $50,000 in revenue in 2014, according to a Postanalysis of code enforcement records.
Code officers also gave 1,800 written and verbal warnings last year.
Naturally, some students received more tickets and warnings than others. Take Jake Mullins, for example. The junior studying criminology is a resident of 50 Mill St., a property that received seven warnings and 22 tickets valued at $1,620 in 2014. He believes city workers target those living on Mill Street.
“How are you expected to throw parties and show other people a good time … when we can’t throw parties because we’re afraid to get trash citations?” he said.
Mullins added that the threat of trash citations has even affected his ability to recruit for his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, which has multiple members living on Mill.
Mullins’ roommate, John Littell, a junior studying video production and president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said he could find a better way to spend his money than on trash tickets.
“I could be spending more money at the Crystal,” Littell said, “But I’m having to pay hundreds of dollars for one beer can.”
Just a few houses away, Ian Baker, a sophomore studying health service administration who resides at 45 Mill St., said he and his roommates find the trash laws disruptive of their weekend lives. Baker’s house had been cited 17 times and charged $1,240 for trash violations last year.
“We’re trying to throw parties and collect money… we have to throw in less money because everyone’s paying for fines,” Baker said. He added that paying for parties is becoming increasingly difficult, considering that fines escalate with each additional ticket.
Offenses can be handed out for any sized mess, from lawns that look like something out of Animal House to properties that have a few beer cans on the lawn.
Louis Gigliotti, a junior studying finance, is a resident of 48 Mill St., a house that had accumulated 22 tickets and $1,620 in fines last year. He thinks many of those tickets are attributed to drunken guests and passersby littering on his property.
“As a student, it’s a lot of money for a fine when most of the trash is from other people,” Gigliotti said. “Obviously, we’re not going to throw trash in our yard.”
Code officers often come by early in the morning to assess properties and write citations, which Gigliotti said doesn’t give them much time to clean up.
“They (litter control officers) have come… before 8 a.m. many times,” he said. “I think it’s kind of ridiculous.”
Athens Code Director John Paszke said the tickets are handed out early in the morning to encourage everyone to clean earlier.
Residents walking to church on Sunday mornings have complained to Paszke’s office about the sight of trash on their Sunday walks, he added.
The city’s new fines on trash took effect Jan. 1.
“I think that (raising the fines) is stupid because obviously we’re going to keep throwing parties, and its not going to teach us a lesson if you keep making the bill more,” Mullins said. “It’s not doing anything except taking more money out of my wallet.”