Bill would end reclaiming period in city evictions Designed to cut off storage costs

October 02, 1990|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

The city would no longer give evicted tenants a 30-day period to reclaim possessions put out on the street but would truck them directly to an incinerator for disposal under legislation being proposed by the Schmoke administration.

A bill introduced into the City Council last night would delete a provision of the code which requires the city to pick up and store so-called "eviction chattel" -- the property placed on the curb during an eviction. The move could save the financially strapped city over $1 million a year.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke said that, without pre-judging the legislation, she had two major concerns -- the rights of evicted tenants to reclaim their property and the possible addition of work for an already over-extended trash-removal work force.

The city currently has a $1.6 million contract with a private firm, Adams & Winer Auctioneers, Inc. for the pick up and storage. If the property is not claimed at the storage warehouse by its owners within 30 days, it goes up for auction. What is not sold is sent to the incinerator.

The bill would knock out the 30-day storage step. Instead, city bulk trash trucks would transport the property directly to the incinerator.

Clarke said there are enough concerns with the legislation that "the mayor and the council will have a lot to sort out on this one."

"I understand the fiscal implications of the bill, but right now because of cutbacks this fiscal year and a hiring freeze, the city is having a hard enough time getting our bulk trash picked up and our wire trash baskets emptied let alone taking on this new responsibility," said Clarke.

Clarke was referring to agency budget reductions ordered by the Schmoke administration for this fiscal year, reductions that caused the Public Works Department to reduce the frequency of residential bulk trash pickups. Crews which once handled only bulk trash are now forced to make regular trash pickups.

Clarke and Councilman Lawrence Bell 3rd, D-4th, both expressed concern about the rights of those evicted to re-claim their property.

Bell said that, although 30 days may be too much time to give tenants to re-claim their property, "we need to make sure that they have the opportunity to get what they want to keep before it is hauled off."

Bell acknowledged that in many instances the tenants or other residents in the neighborhood pick out the salvageable items and leave the trash behind "and sometimes it may lie in the street for several days before it is picked up."

When a court order setting the date of an eviction is issued, the tenant is notified of the eviction date and has until the time the property is loaded on the trucks to remove any belongings.

The re-claim rate until the time of eviction is about 20 percent, according to Joseph D. Zissimos, city property disposal supervisor. The re-claim rate once it gets to the warehouse for storage is even lower -- 2 percent.

In other council action yesterday:

* Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke once again told council members he would not give them any guarantee that his upcoming councilmanic redistricting plan would keep them in their existing districts.

During his bi-weekly luncheon meeting with the council yesterday, the mayor said his staff would prepare several alternative redistricting plans and he would make the final decision.

By City Charter, the mayor must submit a plan using new census figures to the council by Feb. 1 of next year. The council has 60 days to pass his plan, amend it or draw their own re-districting plan.

* Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, introduced two resolutions calling for providing health care and education to the homeless.

Stokes, chair of the health sub-committee, said that an estimated 1,100 homeless children in Baltimore go without schooling or, at best, have month-long gaps in their education. His resolution asks that the city Department of Education and Department of Housing and Community Development establish a joint committee to study the problem.

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