Business Helps Amy Help Neighborhood

By Amy Davis

HOUSTON - A dump. That's how people described a house in one northeast side Harris County neighborhood when they called asking Amy for help.

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First, they say, the place was abandoned. Then people started tossing their trash right in the front yard.

They called KPRC Local 2 investigative reporter Amy Davis when they said the county was taking too long to get to the bottom of the huge trash pile.

"Just look at it," said Ken Sparks. "It's in front of a house that's abandoned. The windows are being broken out. It's a huge pile of trash."

"It kind of makes our house look bad when there's a big pile of trash right next door to us," said neighbor Ricardo Duarte.

Everyone in Fairgreen on the northeast side is sick of looking at the garbage. An old TV and tires litter the lawn. On the window, we saw a notice from the health department, but there's no one here to read it.

"They just, like, try to warn the owner about the trash, but he doesn't do anything about it," said Duarte.

"This has always been a real nice community," said Sparks, who has elderly relatives who live in Fairgreen.

Duarte said passers-by see the garbage and take it as an invitation to dump.

"They have no respect for the people that live around here," he said. "They don't care. They don't live around here. They just see the trash and say, "Well, OK, I'm just going to put my trash on top of there."

The County Health Department told Davis they've received several complaints on the property on Countrywood Lane over the last year. On Jan. 14, it mailed a warning to the owner on file with the tax office. We stopped by that same address,  a southwest Houston apartment, but no one answered the door.

The next step is Justice of the Peace court, but the county couldn't say at what point it would just clean up the mess.

"And I said, well, maybe we should call somebody," explained Sparks. "I just happened to think of you and wrote you an e-mail and here we are."

I can talk trash, but I'm not qualified to pick it up. That's why I called someone who is. Waste Management sent a crew on a Saturday and free of charge. They got down to business and quickly got to the bottom of the pile.

A happy crowd of neighbors who had gathered to watch the eyesore go broke out in applause.

"We really thank Waste Management for coming out and helping get this trash picked up," Sparks told one of the crew members.

"We're so glad that Ms. Davis done something about this," said Maria Enriquez.

"Red tape here, red tape there, but the Waste Management people really came through," Virginia Sparks said.

The county can still go after the homeowner in court for the broken windows and graffiti on the home he has yet to clean up. The county can also clean up the property itself, and then put a lien on the property so the owner can't sell it without paying what it cost the county to clean it up.

If you'd like to file a complaint with the county about a nuisance property, call 713-439-6270. For answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the process, visit the health department's Web site.

If you have a consumer question to "Ask Amy," send her an e-mail.Copyright 2006 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.