Trash troubles plague properties in city of Huntington

A resident contacted us after trash had begun to pile up in the alley behind her home, leading to rodents, a horrendous smell and a potential fire hazard.
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 6:11 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - When trash piles up at properties in the city of Huntington, it becomes an eyesore for neighbors and residents. It also becomes a matter of public health.

“I’m so happy about this,” said Rebecca McDermott. “I am so glad I’m done seeing this.”

McDermott has lived in the city’s West End for 10 years and says her problems started a few months ago when some neighbors moved out. They left behind small piles of trash, debris and furniture. Over time, the clutter grew, and so did the risk of danger.

“We want to be safe here; we don’t need this,” she said. “We want to be safe in our homes, have a good safe area for our kids. This is not safe.”

She says rodents have become a problem and also the fear of a potential fire, as the pile had been left around the base of a power pole.

Once reporter Kelsey Souto contacted the city, crews were out to haul away the trash within a few hours. McDermott was extremely grateful.

“Thankfully now, I don’t have to have that fear when I go to bed at night that something is going to go on out here,” she said. “It’s almost like a domino affect. I am so thankful for you helping with this; I really am.”

Jim Insco is the Public Works Director for the city of Huntington. He says more than 80% of complaints that come into their office result in some sort of compliance and cleanup.

“Sometimes we can identify who has put it there and we hold them accountable,” he said. “Other times we can’t. Especially on vacant properties, so it makes it a true challenge.”

But some property owners are hard to track down or aren’t responsible enough to maintain the land they own, which can result in fines, citation and possibly even jail time.

“There’s more piles than I have manpower,” he said.

The city is 13 square miles and divided up into zones for four code enforcement officers. Insco said their department relies heavily on tips and complaints about illegal dump sites and properties in disrepair, so they know where to focus their energy and attention.

Ultimately they’d like to catch people in the act and hold them responsible, but more importantly they want to keep the garbage off the streets.

“We have a system that works really well, but sometimes we get overwhelmed,” Insco said. ““We will get caught up. We always encourage the public to call us.”

Insco says many property owners live outside city limits and often even out of state.

The city says warning notices have now been issued to two homes along West Ninth Avenue. Those homeowners will have 10 days to come into compliance. Otherwise, a citation will be issued to appear in municipal court. From there, a judge will decide if they will be fined or face jail time.

“It helps our city, it eliminates the nuisance of having to look at a pile for three to four weeks,” Insco said.

City ordinance states that property owners are allowed one free trash pickup a month. They’re also able to take one free, 8-foot dump truck load to the landfill in Guyandotte per month.

To file a complaint, you can call public works at 304-696-5903.

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