Eviction notification effort tries to curb garbage cleanup costs
City officials are trying to reduce the problem, or at least get reimbursement when possible.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Every other week it seems city streets Superintendent Calvin Jones has to send a crew to clean up another neighborhood mess.
Mattresses and couches, tables and chairs, clothes and cardboard boxes, all piled on the devil strip. The items often fall onto the sidewalk or into the street and blow around the neighborhood.
Half the time the trash is from someone who was evicted, and their possessions were put outside by the city court; the rest are because a tenant moved and left behind a ton of stuff.
Garbage pickup: Scheduled garbage pickup is usually days away, or not coming at all because the bill hasn't been paid.
It's been a growing problem around the city the past couple years. Jones is tired of the complaints and the costs. He doesn't have much choice, however.
"They want the stuff gone and we have the equipment," he said.
There is some progress in trying to alleviate the problem.
Jones is working with the city municipal court to reduce the number of eviction-related problems. If nothing else, the city might get reimbursed for cleanup costs if possible.
Notifications: Mike Crogan, the court's chief bailiff, said his office will start notifying the street department when it does an eviction. That way, the street department can meet the three-day notice needed to bill a property owner when there is a mess. Workers also could get to complaints faster.
State law gives city court bailiffs 10 days to carry out an eviction after a notice is filed. The court's three bailiffs each face 15 to 20 evictions a week, plus all of their other work. That makes it impossible to time evictions close to trash pickup day, Crogan said.
Tenant possessions then sit at the curb for days or weeks. Such messes seem to crop up about once a month.
The court doesn't have any role, such as cleanup, after an eviction, Crogan said.
If the court tells the street department about evictions, Jones said his office can give the property owner the three-day notice to clean up. Once that happens, the city can charge the property owner or tack costs onto the tax bill if street crews get stuck clearing away the debris. The city can't bill an owner if notice isn't given.
Notification also would help dispatch the street department after three days, reducing citizen complaints, Jones said.
Notification won't avoid the need to do cleanups, but it will help.
"At least we can recoup the cost," Jones said.
Cost: The street department spends $15,000 to $20,000 a year on emergency cleanups. That also pulls money, workers and equipment away from other jobs. Other street department duties are left undone.
"I'm getting beat up for what I'm not doing," Jones said.
Large landlords tend to have the trash hauled away within a couple of days. Out-of-town and small landlords who don't know what's happening or who can't afford cleanups are behind most of the problems, Jones said.