The City of Pine Bluff’s Quality of Life Division held a town hall meeting this week to discuss city codes governing garbage removal, grass cutting, abandoned vehicles and other subjects.


The meeting at the Pine Bluff Convention Center was planned as part of an effort to combat problems such as illegal dumping and overgrown lots by educating citizens who might be unaware of existing rules and consequences. Most of the 30 attendees, however, appeared to be actively engaged residents who brought concerns of their own about the appearance of the city. Police Chief Ivan Whitfield said the department plans to write more tickets for littering.


The Quality of Life Division is now fully staffed with five code enforcement officers after two hires were recently made, Evelyn Horton, chief inspector of the Pine Bluff Quality of Life Division, said. Officers will be assigned to one of the city’s four wards, but until the end of the summer each of the five officers are going to work together to address the most pressing areas of the city. Horton said the temporary strategy is intended to deal with a “crisis” of overgrowth in the city.


Property with grass higher than eight inches is eligible for a citation. The city will issue a notice on a piece of yellow paper at the property, after which the property owner has seven days to cut the grass. After the seven days, the city may assign the lot to a contractor, clear it and bill the property owner. If a property owner has a problem and needs extra time, they should contact the city, said code enforcement officer Joshua Pickett.


“If you see [a notice] on your property, don’t get upset,” Pickett said at the Monday meeting. “Just clean it, and you won’t have to deal with us again.”


Pickett also urged citizens to keep trash and litter out of ditches, because it clogs storm drains and leads to flooding. Residents can also be fined under the city’s code $10 per day for accumulation of waste on their property. Abandoned, dismantled and inoperative vehicles are also subject to the city’s code of ordinances. Some people work as mechanics out of their homes in residential neighborhoods, Pickett said, but those people need to acquire a license to work as a mechanic.


For more information on city ordinances, citizens can go to www.cityofpinebluff.com/pbar/quality-of-life-division/


To nominate a home for yard of the month, call 870-730-2127. To join your local neighborhood association, call 870-730-2073. To start a community cleanup in your neighborhood, call quality of life at 870-730-2031.


To contact the street department, call 870-543-5101. One resident asked Street Department Director Rick Rhoden about persistent flooding on streets around his property. When it rains, the resident said, he does not get mail, his garbage is not picked up and cars stall in front of his house.


“I’m scared to back out of my yard and go to work on a rainy day,” the man said.


Rhoden said some of the flash flooding recently has been unavoidable due to the amount of rain, sometimes five inches within two hours. Much of the city’s drainage pipes are old and deteriorated, he said, and there are projects underway to fix the worst areas.


A major cause of flooding is also littering, Rhoden said, which clogs up storm drains. Couches, refrigerators and other garbage that do not get picked up and end up in ditches are some of the worst items.


“Whenever you see someone throw a cup out the window, the cup didn’t stop the ditch right then,” Rhoden said. “But flowed down to the corner where 100 people in front of you threw out cups, that’s where it clogged that little [drainage] hole. When you have a drainage problem, let us know.”


Mike Nelson, a representative of Waste Management, Inc., which the city contracts with to provide waste disposal services, was also present. Nelson said he instructs drivers not to drive trucks through high water. Nelson said to call Waste Management if your garbage is not picked up. To contact Waste Management, call 870-247-3747. Nelson added that property owners within the city limits can put bulk items such as couches and mattresses by the streets and Waste Management will pick them up.


“There’s a lot of dumping on vacant lots and housing,” Nelson said. “That’s something that we don’t like either. The majority of our employees live here in Pine Bluff. I live in Pine Bluff. We try to clean up as much as we can, but when it comes to the contract, we have to clean up as far as Liberty Utilities go.”


Alderman Donald Hatchett has recently criticized Waste Management for lack of response regarding his suggestion for a potential new dumping site for bulk items within the city. Pickup of bulk items such as furniture and appliances from apartment complexes has been a particular focus point as city leaders try to combat illegal dumping in the city.