Melrose council objects to man reclaiming items from dumpsters

Courtesy photo: Ted Stretmoyer Melrose village council members say they want to prohibit people from being able to go through trash in the village’s dumpsters for safety and security reasons. Melrose resident Ted Stretmoyer said for a year he has salvaged useful items from village trash dumpsters and donated them to charities.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Melrose’s village council says the village’s trash isn’t up for grabs.

Resident Ted Stretmoyer has attracted the ire of some council members by taking items from the village trash bins that he thinks can be reused by others.

“As of right now we don’t have a specific ordinance against it,” Councilman Tuck Monk said, “(but) I expect that will be coming pretty quick.”

Stretmoyer said he is disappointed with the council’s approach, but he’s not interested in fighting an uphill battle.

“(Village leaders) decide there’s something they don’t like, then they bring it up and it becomes law,” he said. “I don’t want to do it anymore because now they’ve made a case out of it… it was just basically a hobby and I felt good about it — it’s just really difficult to deal with. I don’t really wish to help the community anymore.”

He went through the village trash bins twice daily, but was confronted two weeks ago by Councilwoman Jewel Hill.

“The lady was just really nasty to me and said it was against the law,” he said.

Stretmoyer said he knew there was no ordinance against what he had done, so he went to the meeting that night and discovered he was a subject of conversation, even though nothing was mentioned on the agenda.

Council members told him it was illegal for him to look through and remove items from the trash bins, because he was trespassing, and he was stealing because the trash is the village’s property once it is in the trash bins.

Stretmoyer argued because the trash bins are on public property for public use, there is no village ordinance against it. He added that if dumpster items are village property, the village should come clean up the trash that blows from them, into his nearby yard.

Hill and Monk said they had received complaints about Stretmoyer’s foraging from residents concerned about identity theft.

“For the safety and security of our residents,” Hill said, “I had said to him that he should not be doing that and he came back at me that that was none of my business.”

Hill said Stretmoyer’s actions didn’t bother her personally, but she approached him on behalf of residents’ concerns.

Monk added that the bins could contain hypodermic needles or other hazardous items.

“We disagree with him 100 percent about him going in there,” Monk said. “We don’t know what all’s in there.

“I think he thought he was doing a good thing … but if he wants to recycle, he needs to take care of it before it gets in the dumpster.”

A retired federal employee and 10-year village resident, Stretmoyer said he had been collecting items for more than a year. He said he wears rubber gloves under work gloves, and selects only items in goot condition.

He has sometimes found unopened food commodities and clothing items with the tags still attached. He and his wife launder and fold the clothes, then deliver the items to charity organizations in Clovis.

“I just wish people had thrown out laundry detergent,” he said laughing. “That’s the one thing they never throw away.”.

Canned items that are still within date and undamaged, he delivers to charity food pantries. Dry goods like cereal, bread and grains get crushed and used in bird feeders.

He estimates he has turned around thousands of dollars in donation items.

“I felt sort of like I was doing a community service and I felt good about it,” he said.