JoAnn Livingston

Managing editor

One in an occasional series

A recent letter to the editor from James Hodge of Arkansas criticized the city of Waxahachie for what the writer felt was a “ridiculous” amount of money charged to pick up limbs at his rental property at 306 Dunn St. Hodge also felt the city had extended him an inadequate amount of time for him to address the issue.

After reading Hodge’s letter, I filed a request with the city of Waxahachie under the Open Records Act to see what paperwork existed and what information they might contain.

I was subsequently able to review numerous documents, including code inspector reports and certified letter receipts.

From those documents, the following chronology was developed.

• March 10 – the city of Waxahachie opened a code violation case after an inspector observed a large pile of limbs in the front yard and clutter on the front porch.

• March 10 – a certified letter was sent to the property owner.

• March 12 – the certified letter was received by Mr. Hodge at his residence in Arkansas. A 10-day countdown began upon receipt of the letter, with that deadline noted in the letter’s contents.

• March 24 – an inspector inspected the property, with no correction noted; documents indicate no contact from the owner about the cleanup.

• March 29 – a city inspection was done, with no corrections found.

• March 30 – an inspector contacted IESI, the city’s waste management contractor, which said it had no record of any request for a pickup. The inspector noted that the limbs were mixed with debris and trash, which meant IESI couldn’t do a free limb pickup. Bulk limbs are taken to the citizens convenience station to be turned into mulch – and can’t have anything else mixed with them. There is no free IESI pickup service for limbs and debris mixed together.

At this point the inspector had a choice of issuing a citation and sending the matter to court or having the violation corrected by sending in a code enforcement cleanup crew. A citation also would have involved cleanup as ordered by the court, according to the inspector, who opted to send out a cleanup crew to correct the issue.

• April 1 – a code enforcement cleanup crew went to the location and cleared the violation, with 17 cubic yards of limbs and debris hauled away (a pickup bed is about 4 cubic yards, as a point of reference).

Hodge was charged $30 per cubic yard ($510) plus a $100 administrative fee and sales tax of $42.08, totaling the $652.08 he was billed. His property was not the only one recently cleaned by the city; an invoice shows each property was charged $30 per cubic yard of limbs, debris, trash, etc., removed.

In correspondence to the city sent in with his payment, Mr. Hodge said the amount billed was “ridiculous.”

“You cannot be a Christian and charge this kind of charging,” he wrote. “There is no way pickup of one load could cost that much. It is a rip off and you know it. You should be ashamed of yourself. This kind of charging should be illegal.”

In his correspondence, Hodges said he was paying the bill “reluctantly” and that he would pass the cost onto his renter.

JoAnn Livingston is managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light. Contact JoAnn at joann@wninews.com or 469-517-1452.