ROCKINGHAM — Although it wasn’t on the agenda, several Richmond County commissioners had questions at Tuesday night’s meeting regarding the ongoing littering problem.
The topic was first brought up by Commissioner Jimmy Capps who asked County Manager Rick Sago what more could be done to curb roadside garbage.
“I wish I could tell you what we could do,” Sago responded. “I assume it’s just people that don’t care.”
Unless litterbugs are caught in the act and reported, there’s not much that can be done.
Sago said the county has employees who ride around and pick up trash. However, he added that Airport Road had been cleaned up, but after several days the efforts were unnoticeable.
Last June, commissioners approved enforcement fees, which were added to violations such as improper transportation of solid waste, open or illegal burning of solid waste, improper solid waste storage and littering and illegal dumping.
The Daily Journal reported that a first offense for improper transportation is a warning of non-compliance, second offense comes with a $25 fee, third offense of a $75 fee and $500 or court for additional offenses. First offense for open or illegal burning of solid waste also comes with a warning, as does improper storage, with fees for each ranging from $50 to $500.
Other violations, such as illegal dumping, would be penalized by immediate fines with a first offense for littering under 250 pounds or up to one bag carrying a $50 fee. The amount can skyrocket up to as much as $2,000 for a third offense for more than 250 pounds.
Sago said the county has issued several tickets and collected fines for trash blowing out of the back of trucks. A request for the number of tickets and amount collected was not returned in time for publication.
Commissioner Herb Long, who suggested the enforcement actions during the board’s retreat last April, said most of the detritus seems to be coming from convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
A drive down around the county late Wednesday found food bags, cups, cans, a box of cat litter and and a full garbage bag.
Last month, Ellerbe mayor and Berry Patch owner Lee Berry posted photos on his Facebook page of two pianos that were dumped on his farmland.
Several cleanups were organized throughout 2015 along Hitchcock Creek and near the Pee Dee River to remove trash from recreational areas.
Long suggested reaching out to the county’s state representatives to see if it would be possible to track down offenders by connecting the bar codes on the discarded items with purchases made with debit or credit cards.
One idea for littering prevention is education at an early age, Sago said.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.