Some people drive around Fort Stockton looking for a new house, to check out historic structures or to get ideas for beautifying their current property.
For Megan Inglis, driving the streets of Fort Stockton means looking for illegal or improper use of dumpsters, overgrown grass and vegetation, the proper placement of storage buildings and even the occasion shipping container on a front lawn.
Inglis is one of two code enforcement officers for the City of Fort Stockton. The other is Rick Irigoyen. Both report to Building Official Aaron Maldonado.
Some of what Inglis sees on her drives stems from a simple lack of awareness, while other case are blatant efforts to skirt the law.
“Illegal dumping is a pretty big issue when it comes to just leaving stuff by your dumpster,” she said. “That violation is a state law. I just think it is important that people actually know.”
It is illegal to place inside or next to a city dumpster items like mattresses and box springs, couches and other furniture, appliances and tree limbs.
The city will, for a fee, come to a house and haul off such items. For example, it costs $5 per mattress and $10 per appliance. Tree limbs are hauled based on weight at a rate of $65 per ton.
“It’s very easy to come down to the city off or call to arrange for a pickup,” Inglis said.
City Manager Frank Rodriguez says the enforcement effort is all about safety and beautification.
“We want to reduce the fire risk with tall grass and weeds,” said Rodriguez. “There is also a safety hazard with items left outside dumpsters in alleys. Of course, no one wants to see piles of junk around the city.”
Fort Stockton charges residents and business a fee for normal trash collection as part of their monthly bill that also included water and sewer fees.
The majority of illegal dumping is next to the city-provided dumpsters as opposed to vacant lots.
Inglis said there has been a spike is county residents from outside the city limits using the city dumpsters
“We do have an issue with a lot of county people coming in and dumping and using the dumpsters when they are not paying that fee,” she said. “That is really hard to catch because it is late at night.
One local entity actually turned over to the city security camera footage of people illegally dumping two mattresses on their site.
The city also provides for a fee the rental of roll-off dumpsters for bigger projects like remodeling or larger cleaning efforts.
There can be a little detective work involved in trying to figure out who illegally dumped something. City dumpsters are not address-specific, so residents can legally use any dumpster in the city.
Sometimes it is simply a matter if asking a resident if items by the dumpster belonged to them.
“No one really is ever rude,” Inglis said. “I think they realize we are trying to do our job and they don’t see much wrong with that.”
She said here past customer service experience has proven quite helpful in her code enforcement duties.
“It is a matter of being kind, polite and knowing how to phrase things,” she said.
She knocks on a lot of doors during the course of a work day.
Recently, she had to talk to a home owner about two large sea-train shipping containers positioned on their front lawn.
“You cannot place storage units of any kind in the front yard,” Inglis said. “They have to go in the back.”
• More than trash
Accessory structures on properties are another of her code enforcement duties. Storage sheds and other such structures require a permit from the city. In additional to storage sheds not being in the front yard, they require placement three-feet away from the rear and side property borders.
Inglis said a new development in Fort Stockton’s tight housing market has been people buying portable storage units and renting them out as housing.
“Any new accessory structures being put on a lot cannot be lived in,” she said. “You'd be surprised how many people in town want one of the sheds sold across from Walmart to rent out or to have as a back house. Those, unfortunately, cannot be lived in.”
Carports also need a permit prior to construction.
Even adding a fence will require a permit if posts are being sunk into cement in the ground. There are also rules governing heights of fences.
• Weeds and more
Inglis also keeps an eye out for overgrown grass and weeds on lots and alley ways. Anything taller than 12 inches has to be cut.
When it comes the alleys, the city is responsible to the center, but residents are responsible for the side bordering their property.
“Overgrown grass and weeds are a fire hazard and can be a health hazard, too,” she said.
Inglis has been working with auto repair locations on the overnight parking of cars. While it is fine to park multiple cars in a rear, fenced storage area, cars out front are limited to two cars per service bay.
Inglis has been on the job only a few months, but has immersed herself in training on building codes, municipal codes and the ebb and flow of government work.
“I’ve learned so much from the mechanical and plumbing side, the municipal codes and zoning,” she said. “I’ve also seen that the city has a lot of people who work so hard. I mean the streets team does so much work.”
From the Public Works page of our website that will also help: "Loose items such as leaves, twigs and small branches should be bagged or boxed weighing 50 lbs or less. Bagged items weighing 50 lbs or less and/or small amounts of brush are collected by your regular residential refuse collection crews."
Carports: If a home owner is wanting to build a carport, they need to come to our office as there is a process for those. It must be approved by our Planning & Zoning Committee and then City Council.