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Liens Soar for Unpaid Trash Service in Murrieta, Calif.

July 16, 2008

By Rocky Salmon, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

Jul. 16–MURRIETA — Murrieta officials will place nearly a half-million dollars worth of liens on properties to cover delinquent payments for trash service.

The dollar amount is double the prior year’s and coincides with a rise in foreclosed properties.

“We expected this as a direct result of a struggling economy,” said Nancy Driggers, assistant to the city manager.

Like many cities in the area, Murrieta has a contract with Waste Management that requires no residential property be “cut off from regular trash service due to unpaid fees,” according to a 2007 staff report.

So the city places an annual lien on properties that have not paid their trash charges. The liens are meant to curb illegal dumping.

In 1996, the city had 880 parcels cited for not paying nearly $13,000 in delinquent fees. Last year, 1,252 parcels were late on paying $213,012 in trash fees.

This year the city found 2,351 parcels had not paid for services for a total of $466,361.

While city officials would not tie the sharp increase in unpaid services to the stumbling housing market and rising foreclosures, residents said it is silly that empty homes still have trash cans in their driveways.

“No backyard, no front lawn but they have two trash cans just sitting there,” said David Johnson, 34, as he looked over his fence into his neighbor’s yard. “They left two months ago so I don’t see why they have to pay for trash pick-up. Ain’t no trash there. Just weeds.”

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Driggers said a property owner could avoid paying for trash pick-up by applying for a self-removal permit. The property owner would have to prove that the parcel would not create any trash. The permit costs $20 per year.

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