It takes plenty for Commissioner Phillip Walker to get riled up. But one thing has really gotten to him: the loads of trash Walker sees dumped around the city. During a teleconference meeting on Friday, Walker mounted a passionate argument that it’s got to stop.

“Houston, we have a problem,” he said, and not to deaf ears. He said it was a continuing saga, like “Days of Our Lives.”

Walker showed commissioners three photos of illegally piled trash.“Who would want to live around that kind of stuff?” he asked.

One of his biggest irritations is old tires that are illegally dumped, Walker said, noting that when you buy tires at a tire installation outlet, they charge you a fee for proper disposal.

He said the trash problem is scattered throughout the city, but particularly in blighted areas. “Why does it have to be in a blighted area?” Walker asked.

“Because they can get away with it,” Mayor Bill Mutz said.

 “This makes me see red,” Mutz said. “I love being as punitive as necessary.”

Commissioners praised the city staff’s efforts to limit dumping.

Brian Rewis, assistant director of community and economic development, said the trash piles make him see red, too.

Everyone sees the problem. But Rewis said fixing it is another matter.

Rewis said there is no “one-size-fits-all” cure, “no silver bullet” to fix the problem. He said coronavirus has put a damper on the city’s efforts, despite the city’s unveiling of a new strategy on Feb. 28, weeks before coronavirus precautions limited public gatherings.

“We haven’t had a code enforcement meeting since May,” Rewis said. 

He said landlords, who are often the victims of dumping,  put piles of stuff left behind near the street when they evict tenants. 

The problem, Rewis said, is property owners have 15 days to correct a code violation, and by then people pile more trash onto the original pile.

“Fifteen days is a lifetime” in code enforcement, Rewis said. 

He said city refuse collectors are limited to rights of way close to streets when collecting. In addition, much of the dumping occurs on property that doesn’t have a contract for trash pickup.

Rewis said more hands may be needed in a concerted effort to do better, including the Lakeland Police Department and solid waste department. He said it could take a “modest” funding increase. 

If the city caught more violators, it would serve as an example, Rewis said.

Walker said the discussion Friday shouldn’t be the end of the conversation.

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  1. I moved here from Tampa 6yrs ago because I saw here as what Tampa once was before it became a refuse for piles of garbage and a noncaring attitude and its become a County wide and Major issue!! I see piles of garbage and slews of old tires that despicable morons decided that Polk and Lakeland are perfect dump sites because we don’t have patrols covering areas and/or with the Authority to issue Fines!? And if the Property belongs to someone, Make them either put up fences or give them Major discounts on Cameras or other surveillance equipment so as to Catch these jerks in the act of Disposing of their trash so someone else is responsible and Not them but if we have actual surveillance equipment with which we can Catch them in the Act and either Fine them or place them in Jail OR BOTH, we might just be able to alleviate this problem before it becomes a more Major problem and we Cannot deal with it. For years I was the Director of Water Conservation in Queens and Nassau counties in NY and I implemented a Strong Surveillance and “Catch em in the act” program with guys/gals who had peace officer status with actual Fining and/or arrest capabilities. And if requested I would be glad to once again implement such a category within the Lakeland city or Polk County govt offices. I am now retired and would love to keep my new home Beautiful for my Son and all generations to come!

  2. Trash dumping along highways and byways has been a problem forever, and appears it will continue. Why, because there is no enforcement, the penalties are none existent or severe, and so, tax payers continue to pay the cleanup. The commission, the politicians, are not willing to make it a crime, and so it will continue. Yep, seeing those piles of trash are a disgrace, don’t expect the politicians to ‘get tough’ on enforcement. It hasn’t happened in the past 30 years and won’t in the next 30. Can it be fixed? Sure, the bureaucrats have to get a spine for enforcement, and those folks really don’t want to deal with it.

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