NewsPolk County


City of Lakeland tackles illegal dumping with new, harsher punishment

Posted at 8:04 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 20:04:45-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — The City of Lakeland has been hauling away loads of illegal trash and taxpayers are footing the bill.

Illegal dumping isn’t anything new, but Brian Rewis, the assistant director of Community and Economic Development for the city, says it has been getting worse.

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From tires, household trash and more, it’s costing the city thousands to pick it up. It’s also impacting those who live in neighborhoods where dumping is happening.

“People just come by with a quick dump and then you trashed up,” Charles Brown said.

He’s been living in his home near West Elliot Street in Lakeland for about 15 years. At first, the dumping wasn’t as prevalent, but as years have gone on, it’s become excessive Brown says.

“It really gets ridiculous around the corner," he said.

That same corner is where Rewis and his department have been seeing the worst of illegal dumping.

While it was cleaned up by the time ABC Action News checked out the site, we did find tires, lots of trash and used underwear lying around an overgrown parcel of land.

Rewis says he’s seen worse.

“Someone, a grocer, presumably, dumped a large volume of discarded, expired raw meat,” he said.

ABC Action News discovered that an average dump site clean up can cost anywhere from $150 to $3,000.

Rewis says the latest pickup in late 2019 cost the city $3,888.12 to clean up and haul away. That’s ultimately money which comes from the taxpayers wallet and into an even larger cleanup budget for city.

Rewis says while they don’t have a fund specifically for illegal dumping, the city has budgeted $123,000 for private property cleanup and removal of trash for the fiscal year of 2020-21.

Many neighbors explained to us they ignore the situation because it’s gotten so bad that they take a different route in and out of their neighborhoods.

“Very nasty because they know you can take it somewhere to dump it,” Annie Mae McClendon said.

Since the escalation, Rewis has presented to city commissioners new policies which would crack down on illegal dumping.

The policies, which have since been passed, include:

  • Increased patrol (Lakeland Police, Code Enforcement & PW)
  • Public Engagement & Signage
  • Physical Arrest
  • Continue to cite property owners who violate codes, dismiss first time offenders or victims of dumping
  • Strategic acquisition and redevelopment where appropriate

Ordinances, which have already been in place, include charges ranging from first degree misdemeanors all the way up to a third degree felony charge.

It all depends on how much a person or company dumps. Dumpers are also subject to a $100 fine for dumping.