Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Curb Eyesores

Last week I noticed 6 small piles of garbage within two blocks of my house. This week the same 6 piles were still there but now 6 more had joined them.

I called the Bulky Waste phone number in the phone book and asked about the new rules for pick up and was referred to the public works phone number at city hall. When I told public works about the 12 piles of garbage, they asked “what streets are those piles of garbage on?” and in response to me they replied that “no one on those two streets has called for a pick up.” If they had called for pick up they would have been told that free bulky waste pick up has been suspended due to budget cuts and that now the residents of the central area of town, who used to get regular free bulky waste pickups, have to pre-pay $75 to public works before bulky waste will be picked up. However, that $75 buys up to three truckloads of bulky waste disposal.

Now what to do about those small piles of refuse? Most of the piles of garbage on my walk would not be worth paying $75 for a pick up. If we as neighbors complain to public works, public works will contact the Health Department and they will send someone out to give the offenders a warning and a period of time to get the garbage removed. If the home owner or the renter does not remove the garbage, public works will send someone out to take away their garbage cans.

Clearly this is a problem. If the amount of garbage left on the street can double in one week, we have an image problem if not a health problem. The nice woman who answered my questions at public works said “well, it is a learning curve.” I’m pretty sure that some of the piles of garbage were left by people without means to dispose of the items…no car at all or they have a car too small to carry a mattress to the dump. The broken table just does not fit in the garbage can and for some of my neighbors $75 is well beyond what they can afford. Calling the health department can only make the matter worse. Furniture left out in the rain over the last couple of weeks would be a health problem if brought back into the house. Leaving it on the street, means their garbage cans will soon disappear and now they would have a real health problem of garbage building up in or around the residence.

I realize that the decision to suspend bulky waste pick up may have seemed like a fiscally prudent one – but as Izzy Greenberg said at the council meeting recently, it will cause our central downtown area to look like a dump in a short period of time. I did walk around my neighborhood this morning and the blocks nearest the Wesleyan Campus had no piles of garbage. None on Church Street? None on High Street? None on Lawn Avenue? Is Wesleyan making arrangements for pick up on these streets? I did notice a few small piles of garbage on these streets a week or so ago. The Wesleyan Freshmen arrived this week with their parents and the image they have of Middletown might be marred if they went through any of the neighborhoods adjoining campus with piles of garbage. I walked a little farther from campus this morning and saw 3 mores piles of garbage on Hotchkiss Street had been added since this weekend.

Is there a way to get what is out on the curb now in the Village District and in the North End cleaned up? At the very least notices need to be sent out to all Middletown residents telling us what the new bulky waste policy is to prevent these eyesores from appearing.

In the best of all worlds a compromise of picking up the first week of every month or even quarterly might help out the many residents who cannot make their own deliveries to the dump. Also, a smaller fee of $25 for the pick-up of one item might solve a lot of these problems.


Izzi Greenberg said...

Thanks for the article, Eye M. I totally agree. NEAT has been working on this in the North End, but we believe that the entire sanitation district should have different rules than the rest of the city. It is a much more dense area and has so many absentee landlords, it is much harder to hold the property accountable than it is in neighborhoods with higher rates of owner occupancy.

Additionally, this encourages illegal dumping, which we are seeing in the North End already. The health department is working overtime on this and it shouldn't all fall to them. There must be a better, city-wide solution.

Please continue to report issues and I'll post if I get any big ideas.

madam nirvana said...

I agree. Perhaps an over all increase in price of yearly tax pick up could include pick up of bulky waste put out on trash day? The slight rate hike perhaps then would pay for a person on the truck in addition to the driver to physically toss the stuff into the truck-
I to hope for a better solution- this article was very good addressing both sides of the story-


Anonymous said...

Any city resident who owns a single family home and would like bulky pick-ups should be allowed to pay a $50 annual payment which would entitle that homeowner to one pick-up every three months.
The Public Works department, i'm sure, can fit that into their busy schedule.

Anonymous said...

The entire city should have the same rules no matter where your address is!

Just take the time to drive out of your neighborhood to the rest of the city - you will find piles of brush and household goods outside of residences all over the city - all getting buried in the grass that is never! The people who do this do not care....many of them are fully aware of the rules. They figure that the city will eventually remove it because the neighbors will complain.

By the way, my neighbor called to have items taken away, waited for almost a week, called back and was told that the truck was broke down, do we only have one truck that does this service? She waited the number of days that she was told it would take for the truck to be repaired and still no pickup - she called back again and was told that she was not on the pickup list - she had to start the process all over again. I think that a better system needs to be created to monitor the process.

Create a process (maybe a sliding scale determined by the size of the pickup) that works equally and fairly for everyone - in all parts of the city...and then fine those that do not comply.

joseph getter said...

The City's trash and bulky waste policies need to be set so that people don't resort to dumping in hidden spots, and so they don't leave huge piles by their homes. Reduced or eliminated fees, increased fines, enforcement, clear communication, and a regular schedule for pick-up can work.

In a small midwestern town I lived in a while back, residents got one free curb-side bulky waste collection per year, if I remember correctly. These were done in summer, and each neighborhood was picked up in a different week - you didn't have to call for it. This system also facilitated re-use and scavenging, since it was clear when and where to set out (and find) unwanted but usable items.

For Middletown, one free bulky waste pick-up per year per home could solve many of our problems, might cost less in the long run, and would certainly give us a more attractive living space.

Ed McKeon said...

At the Common Council meeting where the new bulky waste policy was approved, Public Works director Bill Russo promised that what we are seeing would not happen.

From an earlier ( Eye article:

"Public works director William Russo assured the Council and community members that his department had a $30,000 fund to address the issue of illegal dumping.

'The last thing we want is garbage sitting on the lawn,' Russo said. 'We're very agressive when it comes to keeping the city clean.'"

Time to call the mayor, Russo, and everyone on the Common Council to tell them that it was an empty promise.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me started on illegal dumping! What a nuisance, for for both rural and urban areas. The solution? I just don't know! Terrible in the densely populated North End and equally repulsive in Maromas and the "quiet", that is hidden from view, areas of the City.

I believe those who routinely dump construction debris, bulky household furniture , appliances, or, worse yet, oil, paint, electronics and other hazardous materials, are either too ignorant or impoverished to behave responsibly.

Possible solutions are education and improved City practices. Clearly it involves municipal personnel, equipment and time, all of which are in short supply.

Anonymous said...

We used to have the one free pick up a year....

Another idea is for more people to participate in Freecycle. You post what you have and others may have a use for the item. All items exchanged are free.

Here is the link to the Middletown CT Freecycle group:

fishmuscle (Stephen H. Devoto) said...

Is a garbage policy that reduces the fees only for those neighborhoods which have a minimum density of garbage in the front yard counterproductive to the goal of reducing garbage in front yards?

Is a policy which treats a responsible landowner (who pays fees to dispose of waste), the same as an irresponsible landowner (who leaves trash on the lawn), counterproductive to the goal of reducing garbage in front yards?

Does below cost garbage removal encourage the purchase of cheap, disposable throw-away items? Does it discourage recycling?

If Middletown creates a low-cost garbage district, can my friend in the high-cost district drop his garbage on my lawn to avoid paying the higher fees he would incur in his district?

Eye M said...

I should have explained that in the Sanitation District (central area) we pay for garbage pick up from the city and those substantial fees used to include bulky waste pick up all year round - we only had to call ahead and they would tell us when to put the items on the curb.

My understanding of how it works in the rest of the city ,outside of the Sanitation District,---homeowners contract with private haulers for regular garbage pick up. For Bulky Waste, they used to qualify for one free pick up a year. I don't know - but they probably need to pay the $75 fee for pick up now?

Anonymous said...

Way back I took my trash and recyclables to the City's landfill
in the North End for free.

Then, later on when I worked in Hartford, I used my own car to transport and to dispose my scanty wastes in my employer's dumpster. Probably it was a criminal act but it worked out pretty well for about twenty years...I got rid of several beat up sofas and other bulky wastes using the City's previously free annual pick up system.

Now retired, I am required to pay quite a lot to a private hauler to have my pitifully small amount of trash picked weekly whether the massive barrel has anything in it or not. The same goes for the single-stream recycle barrel, which contains a substantial amount of junk mail, at two week intervals.

In my spare time, I pick up roadside litter. Occasionally I have called Public Works to pick up gigantic junk along the roads I seek to keep litter free and they have been exceptionally responsive.

Less is more! Don't throw anything out...Recycle or re-use everything.

David Bauer said...

I don't want the new policy to cause illegal dumping and piles of bulky waste to accumulate on private property. The Public Works Commission is going to address this issue at it's next meeting. I will ask Public Works Director Russo to read this article and the comments before the meeting.

manarolla said...

There are two houses on my street that have bulky waste out front. One house was foreclosed back in February and has since had a large pile of misc. tables, wooden garden gate, twigs and branches, etc. The other is down a few houses and has had a couch and table and a few other odds and ends out for at least two months. After reading the article I called public works, explained the situation and the lady I spoke to said they'd get right on it. I guess the clock starts now to see if anything actually happens. The catch with the two properties is that one is still for sale and is owned essentially by the bank and the other is a rental unit and I'm assuming the items out front were from people that recently moved out and now nobody wants to take responsibility. What I am afraid of however is that rather than taking these items to the dump they will take them down the road near the reservoirs and state land and toss them in the woods just as someone has recently done w/ a full wooden dresser. My suggestion for the current concerns however, would be to issue a ticket to the property owners that included a receipt or ticket number that identified all the items of concern. That ticket/receipt would need to be brought to the dump or tagged to the items if they're picked up and relayed back to the town. This way they could verify that the items are not dumped in the woods and perhaps the ticket penalty could then be waived. I realize this is only a temporary fix however b/c I'm sure the next time people would just put items straight to the woods rather than 'risk' getting called on or handling it properly. I agree with the annual fee and as a resident would be content to pay it. We don't often have much bulky waste but if the money kept others from illegally dumping, then that's fine with me.

Anonymous said...

I understand the need for removal of these eyesores. Never mind the health issue they may raise. However, with current budgets the way they are, Im not willing to pay in these times of need. If it bothers you that much, how about a community clean up, where you do not expect the City to take care of your problems. Honestly, these are a few items you can easily pick up and drop off at the landfill. If your a resident, no issues you can use it. Our problems cannot always be fixed by City Hall in these tough economic times. Pitch in and help them out!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous (9/4 - 10:04 am)
You comment inviting those concerned with the piles of bulky waste to pick it up and take it to the dump ourselves does not make sense. There are fees to drop off bulky waste at the Middletown dump. Why would you expect someone to pay that?

Anonymous said...

It makes perfect sense. Community clean up days, with cooperation from the city to waive the fees. I will not stand for wasted tax dollars when we are faced with economic woes in city budgets. I pay taxes too, and it is not the City's responsibility. You cry when they raise taxes, now get up and help out. Totally ridiculous that you complain about dumping, the taxes being raised, and then ask the City to do something about it. Instead of complaining, how about you gather it up in your neighborhood and drop it off to city yard.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 1:08:

I agree with you 100%. I would be willing to pick stuff up and bring it to the landfill if I didn't have to pay. I can't afford to do that. Let's see what the rest of the responsible citizens think of it.

In the case of computers and other electronic items, I was talking to someone from the company that takes those items that the city collects. He couldn't believe it when I told him the city charges it's citizens to drop stuff like that off at the landfill as they pick it up there for free.

David Bauer said...

Driving down Grand Street between Pearl and Main, I saw 3 TV's in addition to the bulky waste. It certainly gives me the impression that the bulky waste situation is not under control.

I was surprised to see that Bulky Waste is not on the Public Works Commission's Agenda for 8/9, this Wednesday. You should still come to the meeting and speak about the conditions.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ 2:56
Perhaps there is a neighbor you could 'share' trash pick-up with and split the cost. Those bins are huge and we recycle and compost, so most weeks our recycling bin may be full, but our garbage bin only has a tiny bit of garbage.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @7:09

Happiness in a Trashy World

I am both happy and sad to report that my nearest neighbor is not near enough to share trash containers. Your suggestion to share is a good solution for many households and I hope that it is taken under advisement . Yep, the recycle bin frequently fills faster than the trash. Oh,how happy I could be, helping the world by decreasing big trucks stopping every few yards to pick up almost empty trash bins and, saving money to spend on frippery, if only I could have an on-demand option whereby my payment would be based upon actual trash/recycle removal!

Eye M said...

Just want to update that all of the curb eyesores that I reported on a a few weeks ago have now disappeared. I don't know how public works accomplished this, but I would like to thank them.