LITTER HAS COUNTY DOWN IN THE DUMPS

CATEGORY: SUP Lee Board of SupervisorsMOULDE

LITTER HAS COUNTY DOWN IN THE DUMPS

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

Lee County supervisors have designated April 21-27 as anti-litter week, but the county’s leaders are still in a quandary about how to stem the growing problem.

The supervisors voted this week to join the state’ seventh annual Trash Bash in an effort to focus public awareness on the ugliness of waste and garbage strewn along local and state roads.

The Trash Bash operation links Adopt-A-Highway participants and city, county, state and private community organizations in cleaning roadsides April 21-27.

Board President Billy Davis said supervisors would concentrate on county roads during the week while state crews should handle the state and federal highways.

But one week certainly won’t be enough time to make much of a dent, officials agree.

District 4 Supervisor Tommie Lee Ivy organized a roadside cleanup effort for his constituents one day last month, then later called for them to make it an ongoing effort. Other supervisors also periodically push cleanup programs.

“We got 60 bags in two hours and a half,” Ivy said of one neighborhood group. “That’s a lot of garbage and it’s not even a main road.”

Supervisors also occasionally use jail inmates to pick up roadside litter, but they are hampered in part because the work crews must be volunteers and can’t include state prisoners. The process also requires freeing a county official from other duties to supervise the inmates.

But frustrated county officials are hunting ways to reduce litter rather than just picking up after those who use the roadsides as garbage dumps.

The problem recently led 5th District Supervisor Thomas Kennedy to suggest that the county put sheriff’s deputies or other county personnel on the roads in unmarked cars to look for litterers.

However, he and other board members determined that would be economically unfeasible, although they did ask Chief Deputy Steve Brooks to request that deputies keep a sharp eye out for littering.

“If anybody’s behind them, they won’t throw it out,” Davis noted of the litterers. “They need to be caught, but you can’t catch them.”

Davis said on a few occasions he has located people who have dumped bags of garbage along the roadside by pawing through the mess until he found an envelope on some other identifying object. He then tracked down the guilty parties, and with a deputy accompanying him made them clean up their messes.

Officials have also called on private citizens to join the fight by taking license numbers of litterers and swearing out warrants against them. Yet they concede many people don’t want to get involved in what could turn out to be a court battle.

Fines for dumping on public rights-of-way can run up to $250, plus court costs.

But for the most part, the dumpers aren’t deterred and the trash and litter keep piling up, supervisors admit.

It may be an insolvable situation, some suggest.

“We can’t keep them from stealing stop signs let alone throwing out a piece of paper,” District 2 Supervisor Everett Swann noted of highway miscreants.

“We need a deposit on everything, I don’t care if it’s a Kentucky Fried Chicken box,” Davis said recently, only half in jest. “We need everything to pay back (return) money, then they’ll pick it up … or not throw it out.”

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