Shopping cart protests cost FW taxpayers thousands of dollars

About 41 shopping carts, filled with trash and items from a nearby homeless settlement, lined S. 320th Street on Sunday.

Dozens of carts were placed on the public sidewalk in a spectacle of garbage cleanup and cart return efforts by residents of Federal Way.

Resident David Zumwalt recently created the public Facebook page and action group “Clean Up Federal Way” to raise awareness of the magnitude of the homeless problem at Federal Way “in the hopes that it will put a little more pressure on the city to have responsible parties clean up, ”he said.

Several people have posted posts about their cart stocks over the past few days, but those posts have since been deleted or hidden on social media.

The person responsible for the shopping cart displays requested anonymity for fear of reactions from municipal authorities and the police. The person said the screens were a way to “start a fire to clean it up” but “didn’t know it would cost the city so much money.” Moving garbage and carts to the sidewalk, the person said no personal items of current or previous residents of the settlement were taken away.

As of June 16, city officials were aware of three separate cart protests that will end up costing taxpayers more than $ 20,000 to scrap, according to the city.

Residents responsible for this act and several other similar protests across town could face trespassing charges, illegal dumping citations and costly fines, said Steve McNey, communications and government affairs coordinator. for the Office of the Mayor of the City of Federal Way.

The consequences could be implemented if a resident is caught throwing carts, trash and other people’s property into the public right-of-way, McNey said. If necessary, the City can bill responsible persons for the cost of cleaning up the landfill.

“These people are taking their own justice and dropping things on the right of way, trying to make a political point,” McNey said.

The consequences of trespassing and illegal dumping range from a warning to a $ 5,000 fine and jail time, according to city attorney Ryan Call.

Although trespassing is a common crime, people are usually warned and then ordered to leave the area. An individual who refuses to leave private property or is repeatedly found entering private property may face a misdemeanor charge or be arrested, Call said, citing state law.

A misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $ 1,000. A serious offense carries a sentence of up to 364 days in jail and a fine of $ 5,000.

For waste or dumping, Washington law states that it is “an offense for a person to throw waste in an amount greater than one cubic foot but less than one cubic meter”, and it is a serious offense for a person to throw in a cubic meter or suite.

“If an officer catches someone throwing trash, they will be cited and possibly arrested when circumstances warrant,” Call said.

Some residents are fed up with the city’s apparent lack of action and the county’s needle exchange program, which appears to add to hazardous materials found in camps, city trails and protected wetlands.

Cleaning up encampments should be left to city-level professionals if they are on city-owned public land, McNey said. Camps on private property are the responsibility of landowners, and any resident visiting those camps is considered trespassing, McNey said.

“There is a problem in the country, in the region, in this area, in South King County and specifically in Federal Way,” Mayor Jim Ferrell said at the council meeting on Tuesday night. “There is a problem with homelessness and where are they going and what are we doing. ”

The city had already entered the property at the northeast corner of 320th Street and 1st Avenue at the request of the landowner’s representative, the mayor said, and “they were literally getting some offers to have this property cleaned, at their own expense, in accordance with and in accordance with our Code Enforcement Team.

Cleanup funded by taxpayers

Cleaning up the weekend cart dump will cost taxpayers more than $ 8,000, city officials said. A previous cart dump cost the city about $ 7,000 to remove, and a third cart dump on June 16 will cost over $ 5,000.

The city has a contract with Waste Management to dispose of waste produced in an office, municipal facility or as part of a business, said Director of Public Works EJ Walsh.

“But materials like this, it’s outside of the contract,” Walsh said. With carts and trash left on the sidewalks, the city is responsible for footing the bill.

The $ 8,000 estimate also does not include the cost of labor for staff, dump trucks, or diesel fuel used to transport the items.

In total, Sunday’s posting was equivalent to four loads of full-size dump trucks and a full load of the city’s garbage truck, Walsh said. None of the caddies were salvageable and were thrown away with their contents of blankets, jackets, garbage and other items.

Although invoices for the waste disposal aren’t immediately available, Walsh said, the estimated costs are conservative numbers.

Labor costs and previous cleanings of similar stunts are not included in this amount, he added.

“These are human lives, just as important as the people who own million dollar homes in Federal Way,” McNey said of homeless people living in settlements. “What little property anyone owned has been taken.”

Olivia Sullivan / the Mirror A driver walks past shopping carts full of garbage and personal effects on S. 320th Street on June 16.

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Peggy P. Gilmore