High winds from spring storms wreaked havoc on the yards of many Harker Heights homes, leaving debris for residents like Pam Calloway to clean up and dispose of.
After a recent storm left a fallen tree in her yard and large limbs lying against her house, Calloway had to figure out a way to dispose of the mess. Her first thought was to take it to the Heights Recycling Drop Center on Farm-to-Market 2410, so she hired a landscaper to cut up and haul the large debris.
But she received a surprise when they arrived at the facility’s front gate.
“They came out running with the (city) ordinance papers, even though I had my driver’s license and my water bill,” she said. “They said the commercial landscaper could not dump there even though I explained to him it was my trees, but he said it doesn’t matter.”
The 16-year Heights resident was told her only option was to take it to a dump in another city where she would have to pay a fee. But Calloway thought that option was unreasonable.
Heights residents can dispose of a maximum of 2-by-4 cubic-yard loads per day at the drop center for free, but commercial operations such as tree-trimmers and property management companies are prohibited from using the facility, according to the ordinance.
Calloway made two trips to the drop center, riding along with the landscaper and presenting the required documentation.
“After fussing, they let us in and gave us a warning that they would not allow it again,” she said.
Although her story had a tolerable ending, Calloway was concerned that the city ordinance was a hardship for senior citizens who use landscapers and are not able to accompany them to the drop center.
Calloway brought her concerns to the Harker Heights City Council on March 26, and the council discussed the problem at a workshop Tuesday.
“I certainly understand the concern,” said Mark Hyde, public works director. “We would like to help everyone, but it’s a budget matter.”
The drop center has an annual budget of about $250,000 for personnel, equipment and operational costs.
City Manager Steve Carpenter suggested the budget-friendly option of creating a hotline manned by volunteers to provide residential pick-up services.
“I wish there was a volunteer program that would take care of helping the people with this,” he said. “We can either keep it the way it is, come up with something more sensitive or do something in between by changing the ordinance.”
Councilman John Reider sympathized with Calloway’s situation but said he believes the current system works. However, he pointed out another issue that is a result of the limitations spelled out in the ordinance.
“We have a problem with people dumping stuff (illegally),” he said. “In a lot of cases we have the contractors dumping stuff on commercial property.”
Mayor Pro Tem Pat Christ recommended the ordinance be amended to allow residents who hire a contractor and escort them to the drop center with proper documentation to dump their debris.
“I would like to try that out for six months and see how that happens,” he said. “I think that would give our citizens a little bit more leeway to be able to do it within the confines of what we’ve already done.”
Mayor Mike Aycock said people always find ways to get around the system, so the city needs to clearly define the ordinance so the service is not abused.
“The whole point is to keep the city clean even if we have to get our own brush truck at some point in time,” he said.
Hyde said he will discuss options with his staff and the city manager and present an amendment proposal to the council.