Abatement notices being prepared for Union Pacific

March 03, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Efforts by the city of El Centro to get Union Pacific Railroad to clean some of its properties has met with such limited success the city is on the verge of sending the railroad company notices of violation of the city's nuisance abatement program.

The railroad, for its part, says the company has cleaned properties in the city but owns many parcels in many areas and has a limited amount of money to do what the city requests.

El Centro City Councilwoman Cheryl Walker said the city has helped clean certain railroad properties, and at one point offered to do so for an attractive price. She said city officials have met several times with railroad officials, who always say the right things, like they understand the city's request and they will cooperate.

"Then we never hear from them again," she said.

Tired of it all, city officials and its nuisance abatement consultant, El Cajon-based Fire Prevention Services, decided to start the process to issue the railroad nuisance abatement notices.


Walker said the city has bent over backward to accommodate the railroad but it's time the company live up to its obligations as required of any property owner.

"Enough is enough," Walker said. "They have been totally unresponsive to our requests."

Mike Furtney, San Francisco-based public relations regional director for Union Pacific, said the company just removed about 30 truckloads of material in December, including tires, sofas and water heaters.

"I think the December clean-up shows we certainly care about the conditions down there," he said. "That sort of thing is not something that we can do as often as the city would probably like us to do."

Furtney said the railroad has budgetary constraints when it comes to such issues but will continue to monitor the situation and put more money into cleaning such areas if warranted. He said the company is aware of the situation and will weigh it against similar needs in other areas.

The 2-year-old city nuisance abatement program is aimed at preventing potential fire hazards and clearing the city of eyesores, including piles of trash, abandoned vehicles and so forth on private property. Fire hazards include an over-accumulation of brush or trash.

Under the program, property owners found by FPS inspectors to be in violation of city fire codes are sent notices by mail to immediately clean their properties. If FPS receives no response within 30 days, a second notice is sent to the property owner requiring the property be cleaned within 10 days. If the second notice is not complied with, FPS will have the site cleaned and bill the owner for those costs.

An El Centro fire marshal provides written authority from the city for FPS cleanup crews to enter the properties in question and remove the offending materials. Law enforcement officers accompany FPS employees.

Fire Prevention Services focuses on homes, businesses and alleyways. Property owners can check FPS's Web site,, to see examples of what violates typical fire codes. Examples include excess debris, overgrown brush and tree limbs that overhang roofs, including visual nuisances that can be seen from the street.

Those with concerns about their yards or a neighbor's yard can call FPS locally at 370-0566.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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