Diana Patterson is not counting sheep. She is counting the dangers in her neighborhood that keep her up at night.
Patterson lives on Sleepy Hollow Drive, where mounds of debris similar to those that once threatened the safety of Sunset Lane residents exist. The double lot is strewn with a burned-up house, shed, old wood, metal and trash.
“My kids walk by it every day. It’s not safe,” she said. “Now the insects are starting to swarm around it.” Patterson, a mother of four children, said in addition to the insects, she has seen snakes slithering through the discarded trash heap. She said she regularly witnesses people digging through the garbage “at all hours of the day and night.”
“I’ve called everybody from code enforcement to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and it’s really bad. Everyone keeps giving me the brush-off,” Patterson said.
Neighbors said they were told by the city in October that Sleepy Hollow would be cleaned up in November after Sunset Lane. But nothing was done.
Copperas Cove Police Deputy Eddie Wilson said a cleanup was scheduled for the street but it was postponed because of a lack of manpower in the Solid Waste Department.
“(Currently) there is not a date scheduled, but we still have it on our agenda,” he said. “Solid Waste is needed to complete the project and they are still working to fill their positions so that daily pickups do not suffer as a result.”
Wilson said the city considers the property abandoned by its owner, Hal Schluter. The property was placed for sale on public auction several times but was not sold.
“The city has tried contacting the owner on numerous occasions without success,” Wilson said. “The property is behind on taxes and fines. This and the cost of the cleanup come out to more than what the property is worth.”
The cost estimated to clean up the debris on Sleepy Hollow is $10,000, Wilson said. The owner is ultimately responsible for the cost, but has displayed no further interest in the property.
“The city does not have the funds to cover the cost of the cleanup, which is why we wanted to try and complete the project with city staff instead of paying a contractor,” Wilson said.
Allen Turnbolt of Lampasas dug through the rubble May 21, pulling out any pieces of old wood he thought he might be able to use in his home-based shop. He responded to a listing one of the neighbors on Sleepy Hollow posted on Craig’s List inviting anyone interested to come and take anything they wanted from the garbage mass.
“I knew Hal when he lived here. This property was left for him by his family,” Turnbolt said. “But he went through a nasty divorce and moved away to Dallas, leaving this behind. It went on auction back in 2008 and at that time, the house had not been burned down. Back then, it included three cars all for only $8,000. But no one bought it.”
Turnbolt secured a few large pieces of wood to take back to Lampasas, not making a dent in the piles of discarded items. Thousands of pounds of rubble still remain surrounded by mobile homes dotting Sleepy Hollow Drive. The road dead ends just past the burned-out house making residents feel like there is no end in sight to cleaning up their neighborhood, they said.
As of Wednesday, Schluter could not be reached for comment.