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‘Look at all the garbage.’ Stanislaus County takes aim at refuse-filled alleys.

Residents frustrated with illegal dumping

Jose and Hortencia Franco are frustrated with illegal dumping in the Parklawn area of the county. Stanislaus County supervisors could approve $100,000 for alley cleanups in unincorporated urban areas and to prevent the illegal dumping of trash.
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Jose and Hortencia Franco are frustrated with illegal dumping in the Parklawn area of the county. Stanislaus County supervisors could approve $100,000 for alley cleanups in unincorporated urban areas and to prevent the illegal dumping of trash.

In November, a cleanup project removed trash and thrown-away furniture from an alley off Church Street in south Modesto.

You couldn’t tell on Monday, as bags of garbage and junk once again clogged the alleyway, creating a strong odor. It was upsetting to Jose Franco, a longtime resident of the Parklawn neighborhood.

“We cleaned it up and they put it again,” Franco said. “Look at all the garbage. All the alleys have garbage.”

Stanislaus County supervisors could approve $100,000 Tuesday to combat illegal dumping in unincorporated neighborhoods -- with a particular focus on alleys.

About 60 percent of the community development funds could support community cleanups by paying for Dumpsters, disposal fees and equipment. The new program also could dispatch on-call Public Works employees with equipment after hours to pick up trash and pieces of junk blocking an alley.

County officials also have ideas for outreach and social media efforts to discourage the messy behavior.

Last year, the county provided $12,000 in support for community cleanup projects using volunteers in south and west Modesto, the airport neighborhood, Salida and Keyes. But it did not come close to solving one of the county’s most vexing problems.

“What we are hearing is the dumping is not done by people in the neighborhood,” said Patrick Cavanah, a senior management consultant for the county. “People come in with loads of stuff and dump it” to avoid landfill fees.

A year or two ago, a person running a business cleaning yards and homes was caught using a vehicle, equipped with an hydraulic lift, to dump stuff in alleys, county Supervisor Jim DeMartini said. He believed the person was cited but no information was available on the penalty.

According to the county, the dumping in alleys contributes to blight, creates safety hazards, attracts rodents and also blocks access to utility crews. The trash piled up in some alleyways is too much for adjacent property owners to handle on their own, a county report says.

The plan before supervisors Tuesday proposes using “bollards” or obstacles to keep dumpers from driving into alleys. Keys for moving the bollards out of the way would be issued to utilities and emergency responders.

In 2006, a trial program put gates on five alleys to keep dumpers out. Cavanah said multiple people had keys and the gates were left unlocked or open. Some gates were stolen for scrap.

Under the new program, the county will inform municipal advisory councils and neighborhood collaboratives in April and May that assistance is available for alley cleanups. Requests for funding will be reviewed case-by-case.

County staff members will ask Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts to identify obstructed alleys in need of emergency cleanup by Public Works.

The program would dedicate $5,000 to a “Keep Stan Spick and Span” campaign using social media. An additional $25,000 would support education and enforcement to persuade dumpers to change their behavior. The education would encourage garbage service customers only to use reputable services to haul items away and advise residents on how to report illegal dumping.

The county already has measures in place that require residents in populated areas to subscribe to garbage pickup service; garbage haulers provide a list of addresses not in compliance.

Naomi Davis of south Modesto was glad to hear about the county’s proposal for addressing alleys. She said a homeless man chases away illegal dumpers from the alley behind her home, but it diverts them to another alley that’s strewn with refuse.

“I smell it,” she said, holding a sleeve over her face. “I am allergic to cats. (The alley) is full of rats. Where would you live as a cat?”

DeMartini said the county has tried numerous efforts over the years to combat illegal dumping, which have prevented accumulation of thousands of tons of trash and old tires. But the problem never goes away.

“We are constantly fighting it,” DeMartini said. “What really is needed is peer pressure, where dumping in alleys is not acceptable behavior. It is going to take that before it stops.”

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