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MIDVALE DRAFTS POLICE OFFICERS FOR TRASH PATROL

Local cops have a new beat:

Trash patrol.In a crackdown dubbed "Fix-It," the city is in the midst of a monthlong program that will cost up to $20,000 to get Midvale police to moonlight on weed, garbage and abandoned-car duty.

Their job:

"Scour the city" of 12,000 and each of its some 5,000 privately owned lots, dwellings and storefronts to decide whether owners are violating Midvale's property-upkeep ordinances, according to a City Hall memo. Also targeted are entrepreneurs operating businesses without a city license.

Since the project's inception in early August, 150 warnings have been issued. Those who ignore notices do so at the peril of being charged with a misdemeanor.

The reaction so far?Pretty good, according to Mark McGrath, the city planner directing the blitz, and City Councilman Dave Nicol, who said he's received numerous calls praising the effort.

"People around the city are really excited about it - those who keep up their yards, I mean," said Nicol.

Operation "Fix-It" has some built-in leniency. Violaters have seven days to start doing something about whatever unsightliness they're cited for. They get 14 days to take care of it.

"Being a small city like we are, we don't have the money for a full-time enforcement officer," said McGrath. Thus the recruitment of off-duty police officers, who will be paid out of federal grant money.

"A lot of people are really happy about it, a lot of the longer, old-time Midvale residents who felt like the town was starting to go down a little bit," said McGrath.

Some are just annoyed, on the other hand.

"Those are the ones who feel we don't have any right to tell them what they can or can't do on their own property, and that's true up to a point until what you're doing affects somebody else's property values," he said.

The city is showing mercy only to property owners who are elderly or handicapped. They're not exempt, but they do get free cleanup help from City Hall if they call and ask for it.