July 28, 2008

Trash Bin Troubles Plague Sunset Heights: Neighborhood Complaints: City Will See If Rights-of-Way Being Blocked

By Adriana M. Chavez, El Paso Times, Texas

Jul. 28--EL PASO -- A Sunset Heights neighborhood has been grappling for years with large trash bins being placed on sidewalks and in front of buildings instead of alleyways, but city officials said they haven't found violations during their sweeps of the area.

Tod Osborne, treasurer of the Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association, said several rental Dumpsters are being placed and left open along the curbs in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of North El Paso Street, even though the alleyways of those properties are easily accessible.

Osborne said the trash bins have caused damage to those curbsides and on sidewalks. Many property owners have also taken steps to paint the curbs next to the trash bins yellow to discourage parking, but those curbs are eventually repainted gray by the city because the markings were not permitted.

"If someone were to park there, then the Dumpster doesn't get dumped for weeks," Osborne said. "They're usually overflowing with construction debris, and during Christmas it gets ugly."

Osborne said the trash bins also attract flies, maggots, skunks, mice and birds, and often emit unpleasant smells during the hot summer months.

More than a year ago, members with the neighborhood association said, they sent a map of the problem trash bins to the city's Environmental Services Department, but Tammy Fonce-Olivas, the department's spokeswoman, said she hasn't been notified of specific locations of the alleged violations.

"We have been out to Sunset

Heights on several occasions in response to the concerns raised by the neighborhood association," Fonce-Olivas said. "We are continuing to monitor the neighborhood, but due to our limited resources, we are unable to patrol the area around the clock."

Fonce-Olivas said the city's Municipal Code allows for trash bins to be placed on a public right-of-way under certain circumstances.

"Based on our previous inspections, we believe the Dumpsters in Sunset Heights are in compliance with the city ordinance," Fonce-Olivas said.

Although the association has requested that code compliance inspectors ask property owners to relocate the trash bins, Fonce-Olivas said inspectors "do not have the authority to dictate the locations of a Dumpster."

Julie Baldwin-Munoz, spokeswoman with the city's Engineering and Development Services Department, said department officials received a request late last week to evaluate whether the trash bins were blocking sidewalks and other rights-of-way, or obstructing visibility on the street.

"Once we finalize all of that information, a request will be made to address the situation," Baldwin-Munoz said.

Fonce-Olivas said Environmental Services officials are asking Sunset Heights residents to report violations immediately, and that the department's code compliance staff plans to call the association's president to set up a meeting to discuss the situation.

Adriana M. Chavez may be reached at [email protected]; 546-6117.

Report it --Suspected Dumpster violations should be reported immediately to the Environmental Services Department's code compliance division at 774-4500.


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