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Aug. 13--In a flood-ravaged neighborhood in Center Line, a fight appeared to be brewing.
A trash picker argued with police and neighbors about water-damaged items that had been left on the curb following Monday's historic flood.
The homeowners had bagged the items like common trash, waiting for a garbage man's embrace.
The trash picker, a woman in a sport-utility vehicle bearing what appeared to be an Ohio license plate, tried to get to them first, but left empty handed after losing an argument. She was part of a stream of scrappers looking for pieces of value, contending the curbside items are abandoned property. But the homeowners don't see it that way.
Tyler Scott, 20, whose basement flooded, described the attention from pickers as unrelenting.
"It's our misfortune. This is our life," Scott said. "It's not right. What if this was their (life)?"
Scott described the woman with the Ohio license plate as belligerent. He said the pickers have been ripping into the garbage bags, taking what they want and leaving a mess behind. In one case, Scott and his family had asked some pickers to hold off on taking a TV and treadmill until they could get them photographed for insurance purposes. But the pickers took the items when no one was watching.
"They can make a couple of bucks off that," Scott scoffed.
Center Line Public Safety Director Paul Myszenski, who was in the neighborhood because of trash-picker complaints, said emotions are frayed for the residents.
"It's part of their lives, so it's ruined because of the flood," Myszenski said of the personal belongings. "And now (pickers are) making a mess."
Meanwhile, Jerry Holstine, 68, of Sterling Heights drove his vehicle along Menge Street, stopping occasionally to pick up items, such as metal chairs. He was asked about concerns from some that items damaged by the flood, which could include sewage, might end up being resold to unsuspecting people at yard sales and other events.
"I'm just taking metal, not taking anything but metal," Holstine said, noting that he does not take mattresses or furniture. "(I) do this all the time."
Holstine, who said he had just returned from selling an earlier load of scrap, is a retired Chrysler worker and picks for extra money and to keep busy. He's not concerned about potential health issues, but does keep a pair of gloves in his vehicle -- just in case.
Judy Pounder, 69, who lives on Menge Street and had 8 inches of water in her basement, doesn't mind the pickers.
"I don't have a problem with it. I think it's good for recycling," Pounder said.
Pounder acknowledged there could be health issues for people buying flood-damaged items, "but it's an issue we can't control once they take possession of them."
Sylvia Wilson, 73, who was moving items across the street from Pounder, including her mother's dressing table, also sees some value in having pickers or scrappers in the neighborhood.
"Why not?" Wilson said. "It gives the city less to clear up."
Contact Eric D. Lawrence: firstname.lastname@example.org
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