Detroit’s crackdown on garbage cans spurs $100 fines
Detroit — Leaving your garbage can in the wrong spot could cost you in Detroit.
Residents in some city neighborhoods are crying foul over $100 fines being levied in an apparent effort to step up code enforcement.
Homeowners in the city’s Corktown and Brightmoor neighborhoods are among those who say they have been slapped with the tickets.
Vanessa Kilgore of Oak Park has owned a rental property on Piedmont off Schoolcraft between the Southfield Freeway and Evergreen since the 1980s. She has taken pride in the property and worked hard to keep it up.
But earlier this month, she received a blight ticket in the mail — her first-ever citation — informing her of a hefty fee for violating time limitations for the rubbish container to remain at the curb. The violation was also posted on the door of her renters, she said.
“Trying to cut down on the blight, I applaud them for that. But the way they are going about it is wrong,” Kilgore said. “They should warn you that they are going to enforce this law. And, your first ticket shouldn’t be $100. We’re not slumlords.”
According to city statute, residents who receive curbside garbage collection cannot place containers near the curb earlier than 6 p.m. on the day prior to collection and must remove them no later than 6 a.m. on the day following collection, says Detroit Department of Public Works Director Ron Brundidge.
Even when they are moved off the curb up to the house or garage, garbage cans are not supposed to be visible from the street, city rules say.
Brundidge on Wednesday said the city experienced inconsistency with trash pickup until contractors took over collections last year.
Since then, collection days have been established throughout Detroit’s neighborhoods and the department has focused on circulating brochures, issuing warning notices and educating residents about when and where to place containers.
Brundidge says enforcement has recently been stepped up. A garbage collection complaint option added to the city’s new Improve Detroit app about six weeks ago has resulted in more than 500 complaints. He also receives calls, text messages and emails from community groups about improperly placed bins. The complaints, he said, speak to the need of enforcement.
Brundidge said many of the citations have been complaint-driven. But others have resulted from routine inspections by DPW staff. The effort, he said, will be relaxed for now as officials work on an educational initiative for homeowners.
“Maybe we haven’t done as good of a job as we needed to do to make sure all of our residents were aware of what they were required to do or not required to do,” he said. “From here, we are going to take a step back and go back to the policy where we issued a warning notice first.”
Woodbridge resident Kara Meister was cited in October for improper placement of the garbage receptacle at the rental home she owns in southwest Detroit’s West Corktown neighborhood. She and a next door neighbor both received a $100 ticket for having trash containers that were visible from the street, she said.
Meister said the can was on the side of the house behind a chain link fence. It had been kept in the same place for six years, she said.
“It’s very unfair,” she said. “It’s not like I’m leaving my trash can out in the middle of the road or dumping all over the place. It’s been in the same spot for as long as I’ve owned the house.”
Meister, who works as a nanny and hair stylist, paid her fine because she doesn’t have the time to take off work to challenge it.
“It seems absurd to me,” she added. “There are houses that are burnt out on my street and they are not getting blight violations.”
For Kilgore, the offense allegedly took place on Oct. 1. She got the ticket in the mail on Nov. 2 and appeared in Detroit’s 36th District Court for a hearing last week, along with a handful of others, she said.
Brundidge said he’s willing to work with the homeowners The Detroit News spoke with who were ticketed in an effort to resolve their cases.