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By Marc Robertson
Residents of Cotulla who have neglected their front yards and allowed weeds to grow tall or trash to pile up may soon receive letters from City Hall encouraging them to take better care of their properties.
In a brief presentation to the city council at its October meeting, code enforcement officer Joey Garcia said he has recently pressed at least nine local property owners to take immediate action on cleaning up their front lawns.
Garcia said letters continue being mailed to those who fail to take care of tall grass and weeds, adding that responses have been positive.
“We have made some progress,” the officer said. “Weeds and grass grew high after recent rains. Some property owners have complied with our requests in the past, and we hope they will do so again.”
Garcia described his contacts with residents as overall positive and said he believes citizens have expressed a desire to comply with city ordinances regarding overgrown properties.
In related business, the city council has agreed to demolish a number of abandoned or derelict homes this year, increasing its rate to as many as one a month. City Administrator Larry Dovalina told councilors that fees for complete demolition and removal of a wooden structure average $1,500 but rise steeply for structures that include brick or concrete.
Head of the Streets & Parks Department, Robbie Thomas has given monthly updates to the council on buildings that have been demolished and removed, leaving properties entirely cleared. When such action is taken, he said, arrangements for payment are made between City Hall and the property owners, based on estimates provided by his department for the work.
The city’s clean-up programs have included so-called Trash-o-Rama days, when roll-off containers are placed at Plaza Florita and local residents drive up with truck- and trailer loads of household debris, appliances, metal, lumber, construction waste, bulky trash, tires, and other materials that cannot be disposed of as household garbage for routine collection.
Thomas has told the council that such an event may result in disposal of as many as two hundred car and truck tires. The Trash-O-Rama does not accept tractor or industrial-size tires.
Cotulla clean-up operations, bulky trash collection days, street and alley cleaning, and removal of dilapidated structures have been part of an overall policy toward safer neighborhoods since the mid-1990s, initiated by Pablo Gonzales, who served as mayor at the time.
“A lot of these properties are considered hazardous to the overall health and safety of the community because they contain animals or strays that threaten pedestrians,” the city administrator said at a recent meeting. “They are also known as places where drug users go to shoot up. We are determined to stop that and produce a safer and cleaner city for the families of Cotulla.”
For his part, Garcia said he will continue to push for ordinance compliance and may issue citations to repeat offenders, including those with inoperable vehicles that block traffic in narrow streets or alleys. Citations, he said, will be forwarded to municipal court and may result in fines.