Trashed train tracks, illegal dumping behind Housing Authority properties

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The garbage was strewn over several hundred feet; discarded clothing, busted televisions, old furniture, all illegally dumped behind the Housing Authority properties west of Laurel Street next to the brand new Salvation Army Kroc Center near downtown South Bend.

It has been a problem for several years, according to South Bend Common Council member Henry Davis, Jr. He requested the city clean up the mess back in 2009.

To find out why the garbage was still there, ABC 57 first visited the City’s Code Enforcement office and spoke with the department director, Catherine Toppel. Toppel says, she was there in person back in 2009 when the city cleaned up the mess the first time.

Since then, the garbage has continued to accumulate and be removed in a seemingly never ending cycle. Currently, the city has no plans on clearing any more trash from the area.

According to Toppel, it is not the city’s responsibility to clean up the trash because the garbage is on railroad property. About 15 feet from the fence, trains frequently pass by on the tracks.

Toppel supplied ABC 57 with the name and number to the railroad she believes owns the tracks, and who may be responsible for keeping the area clean.

A call to Canadian National’s main reporting line, supplied ABC 57 with another number for the company, which in turn directed us to the area manager Patrick Waldron in Illinois.

Waldron listened to the situation as it was described, took down some street names, and told ABC 57 he would look into if the company was indeed responsible for clearing the trash or not.

 Meanwhile, we went back to the train tracks and took another look for ourselves. While we were there ABC 57 talked to Leandra Williams, who rents one of the apartments and has children who play in the area.

Williams says there has always been trash beyond the fence. She says sometimes it more, other times it is less, but it is always there. “I think it needs to be maintained. Just how [maintenance] comes out and they cut the grass, I think they should do something with [the garbage] too,” said Williams.

ABC 57 talked to the head of maintenance for the Housing Authority who told us they spend $100,000 annually to maintain all of their properties, some of which is used to clear trash from the area between the fence and the tracks.

Sure enough, the area between the tracks and the fence was clear of debris at the main office from Scott Street to Chapin Street. It was also clear of overgrown plants, the truck of a small tree partially grown through the fence remains.

Back behind the low income housing, Councilman Davis, Jr. surveyed the dumps current state. “This is just a whole health issue, you know, and this is not just unique to this one area; it’s all over the city, especially in district number two,” said Davis, Jr.

Residents of the apartments verified they see many rodents in and around their homes, in addition to other small vermin; they blame the trash and so does Davis, Jr. although he is not so quick to dismiss the likelihood that it is residents themselves causing the problem. “It’s just pure irresponsibility,” said Davis, Jr.

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