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FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2007

Carol Rippee wonders why Decatur Public Works won’t pick up the trash beside his home in Flint.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Carol Rippee wonders why Decatur Public Works won’t pick up the trash beside his home in Flint.

Residents question trash-removal policy
Some say Decatur’s approach in removing junk, building materials is inequitable

By Chris Paschenko · 340-2442

With junk and building materials cluttering some Decatur streets and alleys, residents are concerned the city has an inequitable trash-removal policy.

Carol Rippee, 75, a retired U.S. Air Force sergeant, paid someone to demolish a deteriorating outbuilding behind his home in the Flint community.

Rippee said he broke his back in three places during a fall in 1997 and is an incomplete paraplegic with only limited use of his arms and legs. He depends on a wheelchair.

He said his hired laborer stacked the building materials in a pile next to his fence on Mulberry Street Southeast. He assumed the city would remove the rubbish.

“It’s been there going on a month,” Rippee said. “I haven’t called the city. They see it when they drive by, but here it still sits.”

According to the city’s Web site, the Public Works Department doesn’t pick up debris from building repairs, remodeling or demolition. It’s the owners’ responsibility, the Web site states.

“My neighbor tore down a building, and the city removed it,” Rippee said. “It was plywood and roofing materials from an old outbuilding. I was under the assumption everybody does this and the city picks it up.”

Rippee isn’t the only one who has complained about possible discrepancies in the city’s trash-removal policy.

Venessa Collins, who lives on Tower Street Southeast, said the city has left discarded building materials in her alley but routinely removes similar waste near her mother’s residence at Point Mallard.

“I’ve called Public Works several times,” Collins said. “I call one number and they say they’re not responsible, and I get the phone chase. Someone just tore down a metal building, left it in the alley, and I’ve asked (the city) to come pick it up.”

Mark Petersohn, director of Public Works, said his department’s policies are the same for all areas of the city. He said he would contact Rippee and Collins.

“If a contractor does the work, they’re responsible for removal of construction debris,” Petersohn said.

Petersohn said every construction project is different. He said his department relies on its employees to decide what materials to remove.

“We have to do it on a case-by-case basis,” Petersohn said. “We rely on the judgment of the operators to decide if the material is coming from a construction project or regular refuse from a house. Sometimes mistakes are made with what we pick up, but we have a uniform and fair policy to give consistent service to residents.”

Rippee telephoned to say that after The Daily contacted the city he received a call Thursday from a woman named Pam with Public Works, who told him the city would remove the material for a $10 fee.

“I told them, ‘Why should I have to pay when you removed my neighbor’s building for free?’ ” Rippee said. “She said, ‘How do you know they didn’t pay?’ and I said, ‘I’m smarter than that.’ ”

Rippee said the city sent someone in a white truck with a blue municipal tag to take pictures of the material next to his fence, but the driver didn’t stop to talk with him about what they were doing.

The Daily also received a complaint about a couch someone placed next to a private company’s Dumpster at an apartment complex on Eighth Street Southwest. The couch hasn’t moved in a month.

Julia Chenault, a Public Works coordinator, said that although the city provides trash removal for some four-plex apartments, it doesn’t service apartment complexes.

“If you live in a place like that, their trash should fit in the Dumpster,” Chenault said. “What doesn’t, they are responsible for taking away. If it were in a location serviced by the city, we would pick it up, but that’s typically called illegal dumping.

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