No trash pickup for neighborhood

August 12, 2008 5:41:07 PM PDT
Piles of trash are starting to stink outside homes in a neighborhood in north Harris County. The homeowners association is in debt and can't afford to pick up the trash.Homeowners say they've paid their dues and don't understand why the association still owes thousands of dollars. We're talking about the Aldine Village neighborhood, near the Hardy Toll Road.

As trash piles up inside their garages, many Aldine Village residents resort to loading up bags and hauling off them somewhere else.

"If they aren't going to pick it up, what are we going to do?" wondered resident Gail Stewart. "Let it pile up in front of our house?"

In a letter from Principal Management Group - the company hired to oversee the homeowners association - residents were told their trash service would be discontinued on July 3, 2008. Other services paid for by the association, like street lights, would also be turned off if at least half of the $86,000 owed in back fees were not paid by the end of the month.

"I pay every year," insisted resident Maria Escamilla. "We pay everybody, so the problem is the company."

Escamilla, who's lived here 20 years, has proof. She showed us cancelled checks dating back to 2003. Yet she's still paying the consequences. Now a month of no trash service has turned into a health hazard. She tells us she sees big rats running up her trees at night.

Principal Management Group wouldn't go on camera, but said the association has been without a board for five years. Now the 300 or so homes are predominately rentals and getting the landlords to pay has been impossible.

I spent the day on the phone with the health department and Commissioner El Franco Lee's office trying to find out what paying residents can do, but was also met with resistance. KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy says unfortunately there's no easy recourse in a situation like this.

"Lawsuits, bankruptcy, reporting it to the county, reporting it to the district attorney's office? There are a bunch of options but the bottom line they need a court to step in and enjoin everyone out there from, basically, misbehaving."

Commissioner Lee told Eyewitness News his office has been aware of the situation for about a year. He says he will step in to help get the trash removed and make sure a board is formed in the neighborhood to prevent this situation from happening again.

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