East Carbon officials listened to comments from residents during Tuesday's regularly scheduled council meeting concerning the cleanup of the community and various properties within the city limits.
The town, once a thriving mining community, has fallen on difficult times in recent years. Many houses and lots in East Carbon are in disrepair and covered with weeds, despite the efforts of many residents and the city to remedy the problem.
"I want to thank the city for trying to enforce the ordinances in recent months," said Jeanette Decastro, a resident of the town. "We've been waiting for this for a long time and we realize it is not easy to do. I think if we work together to make this town beautiful we can do it. But we can't do it separately."
Decastro read some of the ordinances for those in the council chambers, which was packed with over 50 people.
"I just think that if houses are run down and need painting they depreciate the other homes nearby that are being taken care of," said Decastro. "I hear a lot of criticism of the city for trying to enforce the ordinances, but that is the way we can improve our town and make it beautiful once again."
Decastro's comments were backed up by Ellie Graves, who commented about the junk cars that also sit in lots around town.
"I have been told we live in a slum or a ghetto and that is very upsetting to me," said Graves. "We can turn this thing around, and the community seems to be in the cleanup mode right now but the cars are another problem. Each and every street in town seems to have cars all over it. They are ugly and I think they are a danger to health and safety in our neighborhoods."
Mayor Orlando Lafontaine responded to the residents' comments by explaining that the process of citing people for improper care of lots or junk accumulation on property is a long process. Citations must go through the local court system if the recipients fail to take care of the problems.
"We give people 21 days to clean up their problems once they are cited," said the mayor. "We don't want to do this to harass people or punish them, but we want these places cleaned up. If people don't do as we ask then it goes to court and the judge must interpret our ordinances. Sometimes the process gets a little longer that some citizens would like to see, but that's our law."
There was also questions raised by several people about rumors that the city would cover the costs for paint for houses if residents cannot afford to pay for the purchases.
"People have to paint their own houses," commented councilmember Darlene Kuhns. "The city can pay for that."
The mayor also mentioned the fact that the vast majority of homes receiving citations are not owned by East Carbon residents, but by absentee landlords.
"They don't live here so they don't seem to care," pointed out Lafontaine. "I'd say 70 percent of the citations have gone to properties like these."
Councilmember Dave Maggio indicated that, at some point, the city will have to come up with a method to deal with the situations.
"Sooner or later, we will need to pass some kind of an ordinance to deal with these landlords," said Maggio. "Many of the homes owned by these people are vacant and we need to do something to make them bring them up to code."
Several residents said it will always be difficult to get business to come to town with houses that are in disrepair and lots that need to be cleared of debris.
However, the mayor indicated that he is positive about what has been going on and said some types of industries have already been inquiring about the area.
"There are a number of businesses that have been exploring our area," noted Lafontaine.
The mayor mentioned companies like Black Sands and a possible greenhouse project at Sunnyside Co-Generation that would use the steam from the plant to grow tomatoes.
Black Sands is a tar sands development company that has been working in the area.
"I also know that one company is close to developing the carbon dioxide near Sunnyside Junction for use in deep gas wells and when that gets going it will employ a number of people at the plant, as well as drivers of trucks that will haul what they produce. I think we are headed in a positive direction," explained Lafontaine.