Last week, the residents of Hemlock Street received an early Christmas present — the cleanup of an unsightly, rat-infested pile of abandoned junk that for months had overflowed from a private property onto the street.
“Mr. Mike did a really good job,” said Belma Llorente, one of the residents who led the effort to have the site cleaned up.
The “Mr. Mike” she referred to was City Manager Mike Tvenge.
“All the neighbors are very happy now for the quick action,” she said.
The “quick action” took a while to get started, though.
The junk heap first appeared in March, and grew larger as the months passed. Eventually, the stench emanating from the pile became unbearable.
Residents approached the Kodiak Island Borough for help, but became frustrated at the delay in government action.
Llorente had spoken to the borough’s code enforcement officer multiple times, but was told that the officer could not do anything about the issue.
Although the borough had hired an officer earlier this year to enforce violations of the Uniform Table of Minor Offenses — a set of fines applied to violations of borough rules — it did not cover everything.
The property had racked up numerous code violations, such as accumulating solid waste and creating a public nuisance or health hazard, establishing an illegal junkyard, and leaving junk or abandoned vehicles.
The borough’s Community Development Department started investigating the issue and sent a letter to the property owner. After the letter was sent, they had to wait a month before starting the litigation process to take the property owner to court.
Meanwhile, the city decided to step in and speed up the process to get the junk off the street.
“We originally got complaints about the property — basically a trash site — and that doesn’t fit into what the vision of a community is, to have areas full of junk,” Tvenge said. “We decided to clean it up.”
Tvenge said the city hand-delivered the property owner a letter about cleaning up his property.
Two weeks later, under the watchful eyes of police officers, 10 city employees from the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Public Works cleaned up the pile in a single afternoon.
They filled five dump trucks with packages, glass and metal containers, construction materials, debris, lawn mowers, trash and paper products.
Tvenge said the cleanup crew reported that there was “a serious smell there” and saw rats scurry from under the pile as they were removing the junk.
The trucks took the debris to the Kodiak Island Borough Landfill, which waived the fees for the city’s efforts.
The city put a lien on the property to get reimbursed for the cleanup, Tvenge said.
“It is a violation. They are responsible for the clean up,” he said.
To help report code violations, the Kodiak Island Borough last week launched a community reporting hub for code enforcement issues on the borough’s website.
The reporting application allows community members to anonymously submit new reports, review existing reports and comment on observations submitted by other users.