City of Amarillo Announces Program re Trash Removal

If you will go to the official website for the City of Amarillo, Amarillo.gov, you will see a list of City announcements, including this one: “Community Development Offers Junk and Debris Assistance.” The text of the announcement posted on September 27, 2017 is as follows:

“The City of Amarillo’s Community Development department offers a special program designed to assist in the demolition and clearance of slum and blight to low-to-moderate income neighborhoods. The program, funded by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) – is a high priority of the department ensuring the stabilization of neighborhoods through improving appearance, public safety, and redevelopment. The Demolition and Clearance Program offers financial assistance to qualified property owners for the demolition and clearance of substandard structures or accumulation of junk and debris. Property owners must qualify as low-to-moderate income to receive assistance and may obtain applications in the Community Development office located in the Simms Municipal Building, 808 S. Buchanan Street. For additional information about this program contact Program Coordinator Summer McCampbell at 806-378-6276 or summer.mccampbell@amarillo.gov.”

I spoke with someone at Community Development to clarify whether this program will assist with the removal of debris and junk from a property owner’s alley. I was told that the removal of accumulations of junk and debris in alleys is not part of this new program and that Amarillo’s Solid Waste Department is still responsible for hauling off accumulation of junk in alleys. What is still misleading is why the text of the announcement uses the phrase “accumulation of junk and debris,” without clearly explaining that alley junk and debris is excluded—and why. What if a property owner has cleared away junk and debris that was once part of substandard structure, such as a burned house, and hauled it into the alley? Can this property owner qualify for assistance to have this junk removed from the alley? I know of two houses that recently burned. No effort has been made to tear down the now collapsing rear of one of the houses. I assume that this is the type property that the program is designed to assist with demolition and removal. The other house, three blocks away, was also damaged by a fire, however the homeowner is constantly hauling burned lumber and drywall into the alley or placing loads of burned lumber in the dumpster and overfilling it such that nearby property owners cannot dispose of their household trash. My question is how this new program can help the second property owner who is using the alley to dispose of his trash.

I wonder if such a program as this will reach the people it is designed to help. What caused the Community Development people to obtain such a grant in the first place? Have they already identified sufficient properties that can benefit from such a government grant? What is, or has been the problem with the current program for clearing substandard structures that now requires federal assistance? How many people will bother with filling out a government application to get a grant to remove trash? Is this program much ado about nothing when it comes to actually removing substandard structures? If, for example, the owner of the first house mentioned above, located at the corner of NW 11th and Taylor Street, does not apply for a grant what will the city do about this dilapidated eyesore? The devil is in the details on any program involving grant applications, approvals, funding, and implementation. I intend to follow up with a Freedom of Information Request to the Community Development folks to find out how many people actually applied for this program and whether it actually served any real purpose.

Copyright 2017 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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