City trash rules leave homeowner confused

June 15, 2010 4:52:20 PM PDT
An east side Houston woman has a trashy problem that just will not go away. She left heavy trash on her front yard a day before heavy trash was scheduled to be picked up, but it is still there three weeks later. The homeowner thought she did the right thing by leaving the trash out on the right day, but it turns out it's the wrong kind of trash and that's not the only problem.

The pile of lumber and debris in Della Butler's front yard is what remains of an old dog house.

She said, "Once my son took his dog with him and I did not need the structure, it started to rot, and I decided to have it torn down and placed out for pick up for trash."

Butler says she paid a family member to tear down the dog house and place it curbside the day before heavy trash pickup. But the city passed right on by the mess three weeks ago.

"I am having a Father's day celebration on Sunday. My first grandson was born, and I have a large gathering, and I don't want this to be here on Sunday," Butler explained.

City officials say the trash is still there because it was placed on the street in May, a month when only tree debris is picked up. Then there's the problem created by paying someone to tear down the dog house.

Marina Joseph with the City of Houston said, "She paid a contractor to put the material at the curb. Any waste that is generated by a contractor is the responsibility of the contractor to take it away."

Butler clarified, "I explained that it was not a contractor, it was a family member that I said I will pay you if you don't mind to come over and tear this down for me. No big deal."

But it is a big deal to the City of Houston. City officials say it does not matter if the person paid to tear down a structure is a family member or registered business owner. They say they only pick up waste generated by the homeowner.

Tree waste is picked up in odd numbered months, and junk waste is picked up in even numbered months. Any debris placed along the curb by someone who is paid by a homeowner will not get picked up by the city.

Joseph said, "If she paid them, that is a paid contractor regardless of it is a family member or not."

The city says Butler can be fined for leaving the debris outside more than a day or two before debris pick up, and the city is not going to take the wood pile away.

City officials say the rules apply even to yard trimmings. We asked specifically about that and they say your yard guy is supposed to take the clippings with him, but it's not often enforced because it's hard to figure out who left yard clippings on the curb.


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