City gets tough on trash

By Karl Terry, PNT managing editor

Tonie Watson says she tries hard to be a good neighbor and keep her property clean but others are making a mess at her expense.

With Portales city councilors set to finalize a new ordinance pertaining to solid waste and weeds at its July 17 meeting, city officials are hoping to get a tighter grip on trash and weed issues.

The new ordinance, which would go into effect Aug. 1, provides for new rules and tougher penalties, including a $200 administration fee added to the cost of city cleanup for violators, along with a 12 percent rate increase.

On a recent day, Watson had hauled 15 pickup loads of tree limbs of her own to the city’s convenience center in an effort to make sure her property passes muster with the city’s code enforcement. Her problem has been people dumping large items like old furniture and boxes on her property near the Dumpster. She often ends up having to clean up the mess.

Frustrated, she called the city for pickup one day, she looked up shortly after the truck left and more had been dumped.

“It never used to happen until a few months ago,” Watson said. “I can’t keep doing that and haul it off at the same time. I know it sounds real petty, but it’s annoying.”

City manager Debi Lee said city officials are aware of residents’ frustrations. She said she’s been bombarded with complaints the last few weeks and questions about the new ordinance.

Lee said the new ordinances, a new truck with a boom arm and a publicity blitz to familiarize the public with the convenience center will help, but ultimately the solution to the problem will rest with residents.

“Code enforcement is just a mechanism to try and control the problem,” Lee said. “The city doesn’t have the money to keep up with it.”
Lee said the new ordinance requires residents to bundle or box items like tree limbs and flatten cardboard but she admits if people don’t comply, tracking down the offender would be tough.

Lee said a major part of the solution lies in people using the convenience center at the corner of Kaywood and Avon, just west of Borden Peanuts. She said improvements to that facility are in the upcoming budget. In addition informational flyers have been mailed out to residents about the changes and using the center. City crews are also putting stickers on Dumpsters that are in English and Spanish showing a map located the facility.

“I’m convinced that if we inform people they’re going to help us,” Lee said. “There’s a tremendous amount of community pride out there.”