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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Saving $12 a month to cost Anna Maria homeowner thousands

An Anna Maria homeowner who avoided paying for city-mandated garbage collection service the past 14 years now faces a $100-a-day fine until she complies with the city's ordinance.

In fact, Mary Lease of 110 Palmetto Ave. could end up owing the city as much as the property is worth if she continues to avoid city mail and notices sent to her at both her Palmetto residence and her home in Tampa.

The Anna Maria Code Enforcement Board decided March 9 that Lease had failed to comply with the city ordinance requiring her to have a licensed trash-hauling service remove her garbage and voted 3-1 to implement the $100-per-day fine.

Lease was not present at the meeting.

The fine became effective Feb. 25, the date the CEB had given Lease to comply with the city ordinance or face a fine imposed by the board.

Code Enforcement Officer Gerry Rathvon said repeated attempts to contact Lease through regular and certified mail at both addresses had failed, and Lease has also not responded to notices left at the Palmetto Avenue property.

Rathvon said she's also tried knocking on the door of the Palmetto residence when a vehicle registered to Lease was parked in the driveway, but no one has ever answered the door.

"She has never made one attempt to answer any letters or call me," Rathvon added.

Rathvon began an investigation into a potential code violation last October, when Waste Management Inc., the city's licensed trash-hauling service, notified her that they were suspending service to the Lease property for non-payment of the $12.50-per-month charge for basic waste pickup service.

WMI told Rathvon at that time that it had picked up garbage at the Lease residence since 1990, when Lease bought the property, but no bill had ever been paid.

After an effort to collect some $900 in outstanding charges failed in 1997, WMI wrote off the debt and continued pickup.

By October 2003, however, Lease owed WMI $940 and WMI decided enough was enough. That's when it informed Rathvon of the problem and suspended service to the Lease residence.

But according to photos taken by Rathvon, Lease solved the trash problem by taking her waste to the city-owned garbage can at the end of the street.

Board member Shirley O'Day said the board was not there to act as the collection agency for WMI, but the city was paying WMI to pick up trash at the end of Palmetto Avenue and Lease was obviously avoiding the city ordinance requiring every property owner to have a licensed trash hauler.

WMI has the franchise for garage collection services in Anna Maria.

The board also agreed that enough was enough and imposed the daily fine effective from Feb. 26.

That means Lease already owed the city $2,100 by March 17, more than double what she avoided paying WMI the past 14 years.

The board did, however, agree not to file the fine notice with the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court until March 23.

A letter will be sent to Lease informing her of the board's decision and the amount, and it will ask her to contact the city to resolve the issue.

If the problem isn't solved by March 23, the city will file the notice with the court and it will eventually be placed as a lien against the property.

Any lien would have to be settled before the property could be sold, acknowledged City Attorney Jim Dye.

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