Tired tale

Aug 3, 2005 at 12:00 am

When your city is so riddled with budget problems that police and firefighters are being laid off, little things like picking up illegally discarded tires tend to fall by the wayside. That’s where such groups as the Detroit Community Initiative come in.

At least, in theory.

The DCI, a nonprofit community development group in the city’s northeast corner, added tire sweeps to its list of neighborhood priorities this year, says DCI President Michael Fisher. The group planned to rally community members and hit the vacant lots and curbsides where dumped tires pile up. A state grant to help the city dispose of dumped tires seemed fortuitous. At first.

But the original June date for a tire sweep has been postponed twice. DCI says the city is no longer communicating. Now the plan is to pick up discarded tires on Oct. 1 — and that private donations, not government grant money, will have to cover the disposal costs.

The problem with illegally dumped tires isn’t new. Unlicensed tire shops that make their money selling cheap and often substandard tires are a major source of the dumped rubber, Fisher says. At legitimate tire shops, he explains, the purchase price of each tire includes a $1 “take off” charge for tire disposal. That often doesn’t happen at unlicensed shops. Instead of being sent to a shredder, the worthless tires end up getting dumped in the city’s vacant lots. Where they sit. And sit. Mosquitoes breed in the water that gets trapped. Rats make homes in them. There are environmental problems. And, in general, lots of tires sitting around make a neighborhood look like crap.

Fisher says that when he contacted the Northeast Detroit Neighborhood City Hall back in April with a cleanup plan, the response was positive. Neighborhood City Hall Manager Iva Patterson told him about the state grant, and Fisher set the tire sweep for June.

Then the problems started.

The first vendor who’d contracted for tire shredding, says mayoral spokesman James Canning, upped the price after the state grant came through. Fisher rescheduled the tire sweep for Aug. 6 while the city started looking for another shredder.

Everything was still on track, or so Fisher thought. But by the end of June, communications started to break down. Fisher says he’s been trying to contact his Neighborhood City Hall or Detroit’s Department of Public Works, but hasn’t heard anything for the past month. Now he says he’s going to have to postpone the sweep yet again.

Patterson, Canning says, has been out on medical leave.

Canning also says the city never committed to assisting the DCI with their tire sweep.

“He was told he’d be informed of our progress” in finding a new tire shredder, Canning says. “I have been told it was left that we would contact them if there were any progress.” Canning says the city has been looking for another tire shredder, but hasn’t found one to date. Furthermore, Canning says the city can’t commit to spending any of the grant money — Canning couldn’t say the amount of the grant — for tire disposal on a DCI effort.

“You’d think they’d welcome our volunteerism. That’s what’s frustrating,” Fisher says. “With all the cutbacks, it’s just disheartening that we can’t get the cooperation we need from the city.”

You can reach the Detroit Community Initiative at 313-368-0240.

Send comments to [email protected]