Residents turned out Tuesday for what city officials referred to as one of the most highly attended public meetings to discuss cleaning up Casa Drive and Sunset Lane neighborhoods.
Twenty-five residents described the area as not only trashy and a regular dumping ground for mattresses, couches, and other large items, but also drug-infested, with a lot of traffic from people who are not residents.
“The neighborhood draws a bad clientele. People coming in to the area (wanting to buy drugs) go where the reputation is,” said Casa Drive resident Shawn Wilson. “We have got to change the reputation of the neighborhood and that’s not going to happen overnight.”
Residents agreed lack of lighting in the neighborhoods contributes to the unwanted activity.
“All of Sunset and half of Casa are dark — the whole street,” said Wilson, who added he has reported the burned out bulbs to Encore, the company that handles the city’s electricity needs, and that the bulbs have not been replaced.
City Manager Andrea Gardner committed to calling Encore to replace the bulbs and investigate the possibility of adding additional lighting to the neighborhoods, which will discourage not only the drug activity but also illegal dumping.
“The debris in the area is the biggest complaint that I get. Jot down license plate numbers and report illegal dumping,” Gardner told residents. “Most of these buildings have out-of-state owners who don’t live here. They have no stake and could care less.”
She also discussed the possibility of installing digital cameras in the area.
“There will be a cost to the city involved (for the lights and cameras),” Gardner said. “Its not cheap. But it’s cheaper than the landfill fees we will pay to get rid of dumped items.”
Sherrie Lipsett lives in Hallmark Apartments where her front door faces a lot filled with debris from a burned building along with hundreds of pounds of illegally dumped items. She said waking up every morning to look at the eye sore at 313 Sunset Drive is more than unpleasant.
“We stay in the apartment most of the time. My kids don’t get to play outside,” Lipsett said. “There are nails, old syringes, and other dangerous objects in (the debris). It’s a safety and health issue for us.” Lipsett said heavy rains wash the debris where residents park and the apartment manager must remove it.
Judy Bowen, who owns Hallmark Apartments, paid to have a street light installed at 313 Sunset Lane and paid the monthly electric bill. But the light was damaged when the building burned and it cannot be repaired until the debris is removed. Citizens were encouraged to leave their porch lights on to add additional lighting in the area.
“Most of us living in that area are low-income,” Lipsett said. “We don’t turn our porch lights on because it costs money. Electricity is expensive.”
Residents also were urged to attend the Citizens Police Academy to learn how the police department works and to call Crimestoppers to report illegal dumping and drug activity in the area. The city has scheduled fall clean-up day on Nov. 16 to clean up the debris on Sunset Lane and the other items dumped on Casa Drive. All residents are invited to help remove the debris and reduce unwanted activity in the neighborhood.