Sanitation trucks are making dents in more than city trash Two N. Luzerne Ave. houses sideswiped

January 09, 1998|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

Lightning might not strike twice -- but it appears that trash trucks do.

For the second time in less than a week, a city garbage truck has sideswiped a rowhouse on North Luzerne Avenue in East Baltimore, leaving two homes blocks apart with cracked walls and hastily installed support beams.

The first accident occurred Saturday morning. A trash truck driver maneuvering through a tight alley steered too close to a house, owned by Dorothy and Lee Jay, in the 1100 block of N. Luzerne and pulled part of a wall out several inches.

Four days later, four blocks down, the same thing happened.

But for John Bowie, owner of the second damaged house, in the 700 block of N. Luzerne, this is nothing new. His home of 22 years has been hit twice before -- 15 years ago and a decade ago.

"I'm getting used to it," said the 60-year-old with a chuckle. "I think it's about the worst this time."

Housing Department inspectors and engineers declared his rowhouse safe -- as they did for the Lees' home. The city will pay for repairs to both houses damaged by the Department of Public Works trash trucks, said Zack Germroth, a Housing Department spokesman.

Police said James Samuel Taylor Jr., 37, a city sanitation worker, was driving the garbage truck that hit Bowie's house. Taylor was not cited for moving violations.

Public Works Director George G. Balog said that Taylor and the driver in the first North Luzerne crash will appear before a department accident review board. The two incidents will be brought up in the next monthly safety talk given by department supervisors, he added.

"We pick up trash for 233,000 households twice a week," Balog said. "When you're dealing with [those] kind of numbers, things are going to happen. But we do our best to prevent them."

No one was hurt in the second accident about 1: 45 p.m. Wednesday, but Bowie's red-brick rowhouse needs repair, and needs it soon. When Bowie stands in his downstairs hallway, near the damaged north side of the building, he can see light through the cracks in the wall. Heat is getting out, and water is getting in.

Upstairs in the bedroom he shares with his wife, Alice, the green walls facing the street and alley look like a broken eggshell.

"They said it was safe," he said. "I don't think so. I don't want to sleep in here."

But Bowie isn't upset -- not at the Housing Department, which for the third time erected boards to support his walls, not at the Public Works Department and not at the driver.

"I couldn't be angry at them," he said. "I make mistakes, too."

Others on North Luzerne are not as forgiving.

From his home in the 1100 block, Franklin Lamont Echols, 38, has a good view of the Lees' damaged rowhouse, which is almost hidden by a large blue tarpaulin covering the wall disfigured by the garbage truck. He thinks the trash crews need to be more careful.

"It's a problem, I tell you -- it's a problem," said Echols, who said he has seen trash truck drivers "barreling" through the tight alleys on their Wednesday and Saturday rounds.

Lee Jay, who elected to move in with friends until his damaged home is repaired -- which could take three months -- thinks "the city needs to get it together."

But it's apparently not unusual for houses -- or cars or trees -- to get hit by trucks. That occurs several times a month, according to housing spokesman Germroth.

It's having it happen twice in one week, and both times in the same neighborhood, that isn't exactly normal.

"That's an extraordinary occurrence," Germroth said.

"The odds have to be incredible on that."

Pub Date: 1/09/98

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