Trashy roadway frustrates driver: Who's supposed to clean it up?

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Mattresses, bags of trash and other litter line a stretch of Cottonwood Road from about White Lane to Panama Lane.

A frustrated driver said she called both Bakersfield and Kern County officials but couldn't get a straight answer on who should clean it up. It turns out the area is a patchwork of city and county jurisdiction, and one of several departments might respond.

On Monday, Eyewitness News found some of the worst problems just south of Pacheco Road. In this area, the city is responsible for areas west of Cottonwood, but it's county jurisdiction on the east side.

Eyewitness News called county code compliance, county roads, and county waste management. Chuck Lackey is head of County Engineering and Survey Services, and code compliance is under his department.

"It's very difficult for people sometimes," Lackey said. "They don't know who to call and it's confusing." Adding to that confusion, the responsibility also depends on how far the trash is from the road.

In county areas, Lackey says they sort out which department needs to respond. If it's a distance off the road and on private property, then it's code compliance. The job falls to county roads, if the mess is right next to the road on what's called the "right of way."

"County roads routinely goes out and they clean up the right of way," Lackey explains. "A lot of times we'll coordinate with the waste management department and look at bigger areas where we have illegal dumping problems."

And, it turns out this area of Cottonwood is one of those problem spots. Under the coordination of County Waste Management, special inmate crews did a clean up of this section just last November. According to waste management, the crews filled two, big "roll off" bins with things like couches, mattresses and trash.

"We face it quite a bit," Waste Management Director Doug Landon said. "There's definitely some hot spots in the metropolitan Bakersfield area that take a lot of our time."

The county officials say they work with the City of Bakersfield, and refer problems to them when it's in city jurisdiction.

Then comes the question of which department handles a situation. The county officials say private property owners also have to help. "As a property-owner, you have to take some responsibility," Lackey said. "And we ask that they secure the property, or put up some 'no dumping signs.'"

Landon said code compliance can investigate, and even call for fines or other types of enforcement if a property owner isn't doing enough to deal with illegal dumping.

In county areas, if citizens want to report problems Lackey recommends calling the roads department at 862-8820. He said the information will be sent to their code compliance office, if necessary.

In Bakersfield, Code Enforcement officer Wanda Neal says the best number to call is 326-3712.

But, that still leaves the question of trash ending up dumped in the first place. Lackey and Landon say law enforcement has been making extra efforts in some areas to crack down on people tossing things along the road, or letting trash blow out of a truck or car.

"There's just no excuse to see this much of this type of dumping in these areas," Landon said. And Lackey agrees it makes no sense.

"They can dispose of it for free at the county landfill or proper place," Lackey said. "But, they'll dump it on somebody else's property, and somebody else would have to clean it up."

As for the trouble spot along Cottonwood Road between White Lane and Panama, both officials said that can probably be cleaned up in a couple weeks.