Durham - gotta love it
It shouldn't need to be said that a pile of aluminum cans about a cubic yard in size is not an art project or an expression of free speech. It's a pile of trash that needs to be picked up, regardless of what neighborhood you live in.
It didn't seem as though my new neighbor was making any headway by asking the residents to clean up their trash, so i said when i got back, if it was still there, i'd make some inquiries with the city. I drove by the house on Tuesday night, and yes, it was still there.
Yesterday, i posted an email to the InterNeighborhood Council listserv, and the Partners Against Crime, District 2 listserv.
One of my neighbors has a huge pile of aluminum cans in their back yard. (As it happens, their back yard fronts the street i live on, so is visible to everyone who lives on or traverses the street.)
Can anyone tell me who to contact about this problem (besides the neighbors, of course.)
Is this the responsibility of the Solid Waste Department, Neighborhood Improvement Services, or the Planning Department?
My experience with Durham's overlapping jurisdictions with problems like this is that it's easy to spend the day on the phone bouncing from one department to another without actually ever speaking to the one person you need to solve your problem. I know that Durham One-Call (560-1200) is supposed to streamline this process, but in cases like this, i've found them to be just as confused as i am.
After my post, i was contacted directly by both Constance Stancil, Director of Neighborhood Improvement Services, and by Donald Long, Manager of the Solid Waste Department, both offering to get their staff on the problem immediately. So far, so good.
We wrote back and forth several times, especially Ms. Stancil and i, narrowing down the problem, and discussing some other issues related to trash and neighbors on the 1700 block of Avondale Drive especially. I thought things were under control, and that she had assigned the task to the right people. Then i got this email from the staffer who she had brought into the loop to tackle the problem. (I'm leaving his name out of the discussion for now.)
Mr. Ragin Avondale is not my area, you need to contact inspector XXXX or give him a call at 560-4570 xXXX
Fortunately, sometime between Tuesday night and this morning, the residents (or the neighbors, or maybe just one of those folks who walks down the street on garbage pickup nights collecting aluminum cans from the recycling bins) managed to get the pile of cans removed. Meaning i don't have to spend any time this morning on the phone trying to track down the right person to take care of this. I can catch up on my workload (always a good thing) and this weekend i can get to work on the pile of trash that my previous neighbors in the back have dumped into the copse of trees between our properties.
Details and pictures of that adventure will probably be forthcoming next week.
Oh, and if you're curious as to why i had to comment about a pile of trash not being an art project, check out this email that appeared on the INC list in response to mine:
I don't know if it is illegal to stockpile (as you suggest) aluminum cans in ones yard. I read in the Herald Sun today that nude sunbathing in your yard is legal. So maybe aluminum can piles are as well. It's private property and the laws tend not to infringe on ones rights to do some things. I recall one neighborhood up in arms about a series of painted bathtubs in a yard in their hood. Turns out it's art. Maybe the cans are some work of a yet-to-be discovered metal artist. Who knows. If they bother you, just go and talk to the folks and see if you can recycle them.
Go ahead and re-read my first email. I can't see where i suggested that the pile of cans was illegal. Just that it needed to be picked up and removed. I wanted to know which city agency was responsible. The assumption that the residents had not been spoken with was simply unwarranted. I'll tell you, as Ed Norton might have said once to Ralph Kramden, some days i have it up to here with libertarians.