Harper Woods City Council talks about keeping the city clean

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published June 17, 2015

HARPER WOODS — City Council members want residents and business owners to show their pride in their community by keeping their properties clean and maintained.

The council during a recent meeting discussed the need for some to do a better job of maintaining the appearance of the city.

Mayor Ken Poynter started his comments during the June 1 City Council meeting about a recent Kelly Road cleanup with positive words about the many people who came out to help, including council members and other city officials.

Volunteers at the event, which the Rev. D.L. Harville and Councilwoman Valerie Kindle coordinated, included children and other community members, who met at New Life Ministries on Lochmoor before heading to Kelly.

“We had an excellent Kelly cleanup day,” Poynter said. “There were probably 50-60 there at least, maybe even more.

“It was a very positive day,” he said. “It was a successful day. Everybody worked together as a team. Those who came to help really showed their interest in keeping Harper Woods clean and how proud they are to live here.”

After praising the cleanup event, the mayor discussed some of the concerns he has when it comes to trash issues in the city.

“Why do people use a parking lot, sidewalks, etc., as a personal trash disposal, and why do businesses allow litter to accumulate?” Poynter said. “Why don’t they clean up on a daily basis? I’d be concerned as a person, or even as a business owner, (about) the reputation that I was setting forth.”

He said the issue is not caused by everyone, but it is a problem in the city.

“I personally can’t understand how people are so lazy and irresponsible when it comes to cleanliness, safety and appearance,” he said.

Poynter said the items they had to tackle or issues they saw included paper, plastic, glass, broken carts, trailers and more.

He also mentioned that a couple weeks ago, 300 citations were given out to people who didn’t cut their grass.

“That’s just unheard of; that’s just ridiculous,” Poynter said.

He said there are ordinances in the city to combat these issues, and the city needs to strictly enforce the ordinances.

“I remember when it used to be extremely rare to have to tell someone to clean up their property in this city,” Poynter said. “Cut the grass, remove the snow, show a little bit of pride.

“Do you like living in blight?” he asked. “Well, that’s what’s going to happen here unless we start taking care of things and really start strictly enforcing these ordinances.”

Councilwoman Veronica Paiz also had comments about the cleanup and trash problem.

She said she filled more than a 14-gallon bag of trash in front of one business.

“I was really upset,” she said of the amount of trash in that one area.

She sent an email to the business owner, which she said is a big business with properties in other communities.

Kindle said that the owner of another business in the area was rude when she spoke to him, and he made comments that his clientele does not necessitate extra effort to keep the area clean.

“I hope that we hold him to the fire,” she said. “Wherever he lives, I’m sure he keeps his area clean.” 

Councilwoman Cheryl Costantino agreed, noting the amount of trash they picked up.

“We need to stop the littering culture,” she said. “Littering is for losers. We need to get that out there.

“We need to get these businesses to maintain their property,” she said. “I do think we need to get tough.”

City Manager Randolph Skotarczyk said this problem isn’t a new problem in the city. During a recent week, the city identified more than 200 homes and businesses that had issues on their properties that needed repair. They made contact with the owners, as well.

He mentioned the many duties of the Building Department, which include code enforcement.

“We’re using the police officers now, too,” he said of code enforcement.

“With the staff that we have, we’re limited, but we’re trying to keep up with it,” Skotarczyk said. 

They are looking at other options to tackle the problem, as well.

“It’s a large problem that could be fixed if we could get voluntary compliance,” he said.

He said he had the Department of Public Works staff do a cleanup a couple of months ago.

“That’s how fast this accumulated,” he said of all the trash found at the recent cleanup.

“I 100 percent share the council’s concern and frustration,” he said. “We’ve been discussing these things and trying to find better ways to get it resolved.”

Councilwoman Vivian Sawicki asked if the city could send letters to businesses along Kelly explaining the city’s expectations.

“We’ve cleaned it up, and we expect it to be maintained,” Sawicki said.

Kindle said they are planning to make the cleanup an annual event.

“I want to thank everyone once again for the help,” she said. “I want to thank Tim Hortons and Nu Appearance.”