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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2008

East Toledoans see results of self-help cleanup efforts

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
East Toledo community activist Gail Wahl, left, says placing large trash cans like this one on local streets has helped keep hundreds of pounds of trash off the streets and lawns of the east side. A dozen of the 55-gallon cans were donated by Sunbeam Products, an east-side soap and detergents manufacturer. Miss Wahl founded the Victorian Hilltop Coalition, which maintains the cleanup. East Toledo community activist Gail Wahl, left, says placing large trash cans like this one on local streets has helped keep hundreds of pounds of trash off the streets and lawns of the east side. A dozen of the 55-gallon cans were donated by Sunbeam Products, an east-side soap and detergents manufacturer. Miss Wahl founded the Victorian Hilltop Coalition, which maintains the cleanup.
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Many East Toledo residents say poorly managed garbage, littering, and discarded junk and furniture are a problem in their community, but the problem, they say, is not the government's to fix.

Julian Highsmith, commissioner of Toledo's Division of Solid Waste, thinks a new automated trash collection program will make it easier for people to discard their trash properly.

"It should make the streets better," he said. "There was a report that came out and recommended the city do it about 10 years ago. I think right now is the time to do it."

Jeffery Topping is one of several of the east-side residents who think loose trash is a problem in his neighborhood.

"I see old newspapers, some of them still in the plastic bags, discarded beer cans, soda cans, bottles, and paper trash of all varieties," he said. "Plus in the alleys, we find really disgusting stuff like used condoms. It's a whole plethora of stuff."

East Toledo resident Brenda Hagman said some people who rent properties, or own vacant properties in her neighborhood, tend not to take care of them, allowing trash and junk to be dumped there or piled up, and houses to deteriorate.

Bags of trash and debris are placed on the second floor porch of a house at Potter Street and Starr Avenue. Bags of trash and debris are placed on the second floor porch of a house at Potter Street and Starr Avenue.
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"There's a tire on the rim in the front yard leaning up against their house," she said of a rental property on her street.

"There's trash along the side of the house. We have a house across the street that's owned by [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] and neighborhood kids have destroyed the handicap ramp in the front."

Loose and improperly maintained garbage is one of a number of issues East Toledo residents have complained about recently, but unlike the condition of their community's roads, many people said their neighbors are to blame for problems with trash, not city officials.

"If [people] went out and cleaned up their yards twice a week, that's not the garbage guys' job," said Gail Wahl, founder of an East Toledo community-action group called the Victorian Hilltop Coalition.

"We have unlimited trash pickup. Put it in the garbage. Don't leave an old recliner sitting in the backyard. Put it in the garbage. [The city] will take it."

A curbside lawn on Starr is littered with  trash even though two green community trash bins are placed not too far down the street. A curbside lawn on Starr is littered with trash even though two green community trash bins are placed not too far down the street.
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Miss Wahl started the coalition last year to combat crime in East Toledo.

Its members also work with Toledo Block Watch chapters on the east side to clean up garbage periodically throughout the year.

Last year, the group received a dozen 55-gallon plastic drums donated by Sunbeam Products Co. LLC, an east-side company that makes soap and detergent.

Coalition members put the trash cans on 12 street corners between Main, Nevada, and Oak streets, and Navarre Avenue.

"We've removed more than 80 fifty-five gallon bags out of the neighborhood since September," Miss Wahl said.

"Can you imagine the hundreds of pounds of trash that would normally be in our yards, in our streets? If that hasn't helped the neighborhood, I don't know what has."

Mr. Topping, who is co-leader of the coalition, said the project has had a major impact on the community.

"We're not covering every street corner in our area, but right around those areas with cans you notice a lot less trash than other areas where there are no cans," he said.

Starting May 5, the city's Division of Solid Waste will begin trial runs of an automated trash collection program that Mr. Highsmith thinks will make it easier for people to get rid of their trash and recycle more.

The city will issue select residents with two 95 to 96-gallon, heavy-duty trash cans with attached lids that Mr. Highsmith said are hard for wild animals to get into.

"There are select areas throughout the city in all council districts we will be doing this pilot run in," he said.

"We will be doing this on all types of streets, wide and narrow."

The commissioner said the city will host yet-to-be scheduled meetings to inform the public about the program, which also will reduce the number of city garbage workers by half, saving an estimated $3 million to $5 million.

"We'll be going from three-man crews to one driver of an automated truck," he said.

"We'll reduce staff through attrition and retirement and try to find people jobs in other city departments."

If it is successful, the automated program will be implemented throughout half the city in 2009 and the other half in 2010.



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