ELLERBE — How to handle the county’s littering problem was a main topic of discussion for the Richmond County Board of Commissioners during a Wednesday morning planning meeting at Ellerbe Springs Inn.
Both Commissioners Herb Long and Thad Ussery said they had been getting complaints about trash along the roadside.
“It’s a huge county, and for some reason, people like to throw their trash out,” said County Manager Rick Sago.
One of the issues with the trash problem, Sago said, is that people have to be caught in the act, and there are a lot of roads with very little traffic.
“If we find a bag of trash with someone’s name in it, we can go after them,” he said.
Sago added that the county has part-time employees who pick up litter off the sides of the roads constantly.
While a lot of the roadside detritus is bottles, cans and fast-food cups and bags, commissioners said some of the garbage is flying out of the backs of trucks, possibly on their way to county dump sites.
Sago said Airport Road has always been a litter-laden location.
“Until you start fining people for it, it’s going to continue,” said Long.
Kenneth Robinette, board chairman, suggested offering a reward to residents who report the license plate numbers of people seen throwing trash out.
However, the argument against that idea was that some could file the complaints just to collect the money.
Commissioner Don Bryant suggested issuing a written warning to those dropping off garbage at one of the county box sites without having their refuse covered.
“When the county gets more conscious about it, something will get done,” said Ussery.
Commissioners identified three areas that are in need of water service: Old Cheraw Highway, Derby Road and Boyd Lake Road.
While some wells in those areas are still in service, there are others that have dried up or have contamination problems.
The county has been trying for more than a decade to get water south of Cordova, but Sago said no grants have been provided for that project — despite the fact, as Robinette mentioned, that the county has received $90 million in grants in that time.
Public Works Director Bryan Land said one chicken farmer has pledged $300,000 toward the project.
“I think we should go for Old Cheraw, even if we have to borrow the money,” Bryant said, also suggesting that anyone along the water route should be charged a fee, whether or not they hook up to the county’s water system.
They agreed to continue looking into grants or other means to fund the Old Cheraw project, apply from a grant for the Golden Leaf Foundation for the Derby project and work with the city of Hamlet of the Boyd Lake Road project.
The suggestion of working with Hamlet brought up another concern regarding wastewater.
The county and Hamlet have a binding agreement for the city to take up to 200,000 gallons per day of wastewater from the Richmond County Industrial Park on the U.S. 74 bypass.
Sago said the city also once had an agreement for Rockingham to take in 250,000 gpd at $60,000 per year for 10 years, but Hamlet chose not to renew the deal even though Rockingham offered to extend it for 10 additional years at the same cost.
If an industry with a huge wastewater output comes into the industrial park, that could push Hamlet’s plant close to its limit and leaders there would need to look at expanding soon, although Sago said it’s unlikely Hamlet could get permitted to discharge additional effluent into Marks Creeek.
But if Rockingham and Hamlet were to renew the deal, he added, there would be no issue.
SIGNS AND SLOGANS
With Rockingham Speedway slated for a public auction on May 5, and the fact that it has sat largely vacant for the past three years, Bryant suggested taking off the references to the speedway and dragway from the county entrance signs.
Commissioners have also asked Sago to look into having more decorative entrance signs, similar to those in Laurinburg and Anson County.
When it came to creating a new county slogan, Robinette said more people in the community should be involved, opening a contest —suggested by Ussery — to the schools and groups like For a Better Richmond County and the Richmond Young Professionals.
Ussery also brought up the idea of hiring a public relations officer for the county.
ONE DECISION, MORE DISCUSSIONS
The only vote commissioners held during the meeting was following a public hearing on incentives for RSI Home Products, which announced plans to build a manufacturing facility in the industrial park early last month.
Commissioners decided to grant back 50 to 85 percent of what RSI pays in county property taxes the first five years, depending on its total investment.
Without taking action, the board also discussed:
• upgrades to the ball fields at the park in East Rockingham;
• the possibility of placing the sales tax increase back on the ballot;
• upgrades, and how to pay for them, at the old courthouse building;
• the future possibility of having to build a new jail; and
• selling the county-owned building to FirstHealth EMS, which the service uses.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.