Cleanup is easier when people work together
Wimauma residents have until July 16 to get help dumping large items
BY PENNY FLETCHER
As of July 8, the fifth working day after the start of a massive cleanup of the Wimauma area, more than 12 tons of trash had been removed from the area by county workers.
“We have several things going on there at once,” said Bill Langford, who manages Hillsborough County’s Special Code Enforcement Unit. “We’re doing Operation Fight the Blight, and also mowing overgrowth and inspecting properties and securing vacant houses and other dangers.”
Fight the Blight is a cleanup operation focusing on specific areas of the county where lots of citations for yard garbage and roadside dumping have occurred, Langford said.
Four portable dumpsters are located at 16180 Westlake Dr. in Wimauma, which can be found north of State Road 674 just before the railroad and down about two miles on the left.
Between now and July 16, residents who need help lifting heavy items, including mattresses, washing machines and old refrigerators, may call the county for help. Workers will also be going from yard to yard, and contacting anyone who has received a violation as well.
Langford said men from his department and the county’s Public Works Department are working together and many area residents are also helping load their items.
But if someone cannot lift their items and needs help, this is the time to get it done.
To dump at the South County Waste Processing Facility and Southeast County Landfill require property owners to present tax bills to prove they can dump without charge, but anyone showing residency with proof like a driver’s license or electric bill in their name may take part in Operation Fight the Blight.
“We expect that we’ll collect about 20 dumpsters-full before we’re done,” Langford said. The first few days, more than 12 tons of trash were collected, including 760 pounds of tires — 21 found in road ditches — and 55 tires off residential property, he said.
“We inspected 65 properties in the area and secured two abandoned dwellings that were near the school zone, which is a (designated) Child Safe Zone,” he said. “We have one coming down in a couple of days.”
Besides collecting and disposing of the trash, which included chairs, broken tables and other furniture and all kinds of electronics, especially televisions, 10 code enforcement officers, with the help of others, have eliminated 740 square feet of gang graffiti and mowed more than 85,000 square feet of weeds and high grass in surrounding abandoned dwellings and on vacant lots, he said.
“The old way of county thinking is over,” he said. “There used to be a silo mentality. You know how a silo stands alone? Well, since the new county administrator started, we’ve gotten rid of that mentality and all the departments work better together.”
County Administrator Michael Merrill took office in December 2010.
“He and the director of code enforcement, Dexter Barge, have partnership goals between the county department workers and our residents.”
Animal Services, Affordable Housing Services, the sheriff’s office and Tampa Electric Company also helped in the cleanup.
“Working together, the first day of the operation we got a ton of waste off the right-of-way,” he said.
One thing that makes things more difficult for code enforcement is when a home is foreclosed.
“Vacancies attract all kinds of crime, and are always a danger to neighborhood children,” he said.
Similar cleanups were done in Town n’ Country and Palm River earlier this year, and one is planned for Gibsonton Sept. 3 through 18.
“We deliver flyers door-to-door in the targeted areas and leave flyers in businesses and other places before the cleanups,” he said. “We have officers who speak both English and Spanish so everyone knows what we’re planning to do.”
Langford said they plan to remove the last of the dumpsters July 16 and check the area for small items and last-minute disposal on the 17th.
“The sooner people get their things down there the better,” he said. “And I wouldn’t plan on coming the 17th because the dumpsters will already be gone.”
To get help with disposal of large items, residents may call (813) 274-6600.