I-Team: Trash a Hidden Treasure for Cleveland?

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CLEVELAND-- Throwing out trash has cost some Clevelanders big bucks.

And some say trash has turned into a hidden treasure for the city of Cleveland.

The I-Team wanted to know just how much taxpayers have paid in trash fines and this what we found.

Since March of 2012, when the new trash policy was put in place, city residents have basically thrown away $166,000. That is the amount the city has collected in trash fines.

The money collected goes to the city’s general fund.

Violations range from $100 to $500.

Many who have been on the receiving end of those citations say that’s quite a bit of cash.

“I don’t even think I make $300 worth of trash,” said Jailene Carrion.  She said she and her mother received two citations.

But those collecting the dollars disagree.

“It probably should be more,” said Councilman Zack Reed. “I gotta believe we are being lenient on our citizens because we don’t want to gouge our citizens.”

Several people we talked to have a different opinion, saying they think people are getting tickets that aren’t justified.

“They say it’s excessive garbage when the lid is open on the trash can but when you get the ticket, the ticket comes with a picture of the day they give you the tickets and trash can lid was closed and they said we had excessive garbage,” said Carrion.

Shirley Lamar had a similar experience.

“This is my mom’s home,” Lamar told us. “She is very elderly and I came over to get her trash out, not realizing that I put trash in the wrong bin, I went ahead and put it on the street. Without warning, because I put trash in the recycling bin, she received a bill for $100.”

Lamar was able to successfully appeal the ticket but feels the violation process is too strict.

“I can understand the rule, but I can’t understand the lack of warning,” Lamar said. “OK, so at least tell me I have done something wrong so I can correct it; that’s what I think would be the fair thing to do.”

One thing is for certain, hundreds of tickets have been given out since the policy was put in place.

The policy includes hefty fines for offenses such as not waiting until noon the day before collection to put trash on the curb, and not removing the container within 12 hours after pickup.

Trash also has to be placed in city-issued containers, cannot weigh more than 70 pounds, and the lids have to be able to close.

City officials say the goal of the program is to increase efficiency and reduce the number of repeat offenders. They stress it is not a money driven process.

“But those that continually go against the law, we have a responsibility to the residents on that street to do the right thing which is to hit them in the pocketbook,” said Councilman Zack Reed.  “And I can guarantee when we hit them in the pocketbook, it seems to work a heck of a whole lot better than slapping them on the wrist and giving them warning, after warning, after warning.”

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