By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
The question of what to do about blight and the people who create it in Del Norte County is an issue that just won't go away any time soon.
Yesterday, the county Board of Supervisors struggled again with how to enforce the rules already on the books and which county official is responsible for enforcement.
The topic arose during the public comment period of yesterday's board meeting. A group of Embarcadero Street neighbors complained nothing is being done about household trash illegally dumped there, despite the fact that several different county officials and the sheriff have been notified of the problem for weeks.
"It's almost like you have to be a vigilante-type character to do something about this," said land and dumping victim Bob Sullivan.
Two weeks ago, the neighbors implored the supervisors to get rid of the trash built up on their street and to arrest the people dumping there.
Rachel Tesch, one of the upset neighbors, said calls to the sheriff's office, filling out complaint forms at the planning department and calls to the health department have not yielded any results after several weeks.
Later calls to the sheriff were referred to the county planning department, calls to the planning department were referred back to the sheriff and the health department.
Tesch, Sullivan and an elderly resident who prefers to remain anonymous, suggested the buck stop with the supervisors themselves.
"There's a pretty high level of frustration. I don't hear anyone saying how can we enforce (the law)," Sullivan said during a discussion with the board.
The elderly man told the board he would gather up the trash and take it to the dump himself if the county would agree not to charge him the dump fees.
"It's one thing to have to use your own truck, but to pay the dump fees for someone else's trash is too much," the man said.
Supervisor Clyde Eller and David Finigan suggested the man ask the Solid Waste Authority Board which oversees the operation of the Del Norte County dump.
Supervisor Martha McClure suggested neighborhoods should organize and do what it takes to clean up.
"And maybe Solid Waste could help," by discounting or opening up the dump for free.
Back on the topic of the county officials doing the clean up and enforcing it's two year old blight law, Supervisor David Finigan said perhaps the dump should be opened up for free to make it easy on everyone and decrease illegal dumping.
"We shouldn't be charged to pick up our own trash," Finigan said about the fact that because the county must pay dump fees, the expense of cleaning up major blighted areas makes it impossible to do more than a handful a year.
But, Sullivan said he wanted the problem prevented by the sheriff by letting offenders know they can't get away with illegal dumping on others properties.
"Now you're saying it's Solid Waste that should take care of it, but isn't it the sheriff that should be enforcing the law?" Sullivan said.
"If people feel they have a license to do it, it is not going to ever stop," he added.
Supervisor Eller commented that the issue of abandoned cars, dilapidated homes and dumped garbage is not new in Del Norte County. He said despite spending nearly half a million dollars the past few years to combat it, blight and trash creep back into the landscape.
He suggested the solution lies with the sheriff.
"Is it against the law to dump garbage?" Eller asked county counsel Bob Black. Black said "yes."
"If it's against the law, what office is responsible for enforcing the laws?" Eller asked Black.
Black pointed out that liability for cleaning up blight lies with the private property owner.
Supervisor Finigan asked Black, "It is a misdemeanor to dump trash illegally at the land fill?" The answer was "yes."
"Then why don't we leave the doors to the dump open?" Finigan suggested.
Noting the Crescent City government's recent attack on blighted properties in the city, Supervisor Jack Reese said the county needs to step up to the plate, too.
"Nothing is going to happen until this board finds that blight is a priority. Blight is holding this county back," Reese said.
At the end of the meeting, Finigan asked that the blight issue be put on the April 23 meeting agenda and for the supervisors and staff to figure out a solution.