Lowndes County supervisors are looking for a way to deal with the county’s illegal garbage dumping problem.
County Road Manager Ronnie Burns asked supervisors during a board meeting earlier this week to consider installing cameras in each district to monitor illegal dumping along county roadsides. Burns said he had discussed the matter with County Administrator Ralph Billingsley already.
“People are dumping shingles, they’re dumping couches just on the side of the road, and it’s getting to be a lot of it,” Burns said. “I think we need to start putting some cameras up and catching the people and prosecuting them for doing it.”
Burns said he has to send his workers almost daily to pick up garbage that’s been dropped on the sides of roads, and he said the problem seems to be getting worse. He said the county’s litter pick-up program, which is operated through the Lowndes County Justice Court, recently collected 162 garbage bags full of litter in just two days.
“That tells you how bad the litter is out there on the side of the road,” he said.
Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders suggested during the meeting the county could task Barry Goode, an officer who works 20 hours a week for garbage enforcement for the county through a Mississippi Department of Transportation grant, with installing and monitoring the cameras. Sanders said Goode has the authority to arrest for illegal dumping.
Billingsley, who Sanders said is on the agenda to present recommendations on cameras at Monday’s board meeting, agreed that Goode could work with the cameras.
“The cameras are more for illegal dumping than someone throwing a chicken bone out,” Billingsley said. “That’s what he’s there for — mattresses, shingles from the illegal dumping. That would be ideal.”
Sanders told The Dispatch much of the dumping, at least in his district that includes much of the area around Caledonia, seems to come from people who cross into the county from Alabama. He also said people remodeling homes in the area likely contributes to the issue, with creeks and ditches particularly prone targets for dumping.
“Once somebody sees that somebody has dumped something there, they say, ‘Well, I guess it’s already started so we might as well go put our stuff there, too,'” Sanders said. “So it’s gotten to be a real problem.”
Burns said illegal dumping on county rights-of-way is also stretching his road crews.
“When we find it, we try to go out there and pick it up and dispose of it,” Burns said. “It takes a lot of time to have to stop and go do all that (when) we could be working on the roads.”
County Attorney Tim Hudson said illegal dumping and littering fees are prosecuted through the Lowndes County Justice Court. In the past, he said, offenders have typically faced a $500 fine. With costs of court included, the penalty often comes out to more than $700.
Hudson said it’s possible, yet not necessarily common, to use items things with names on them — such as letters, name tags or receipts left with dumped garbage — to prosecute someone for illegal dumping.
“It depends on the circumstances,” he said. “One piece of paper with a name in a full garbage bag, especially if there’s other pieces of paper with names in there, is hard to use. If you find three or four letters with the same address, you might be able to use it. You’ve basically got to convince a judge that that was the person’s garbage.”
Sanders is also calling on residents guilty of illegal dumping to simply “have more pride” in the environment.”
“You go to other parts of country and they don’t throw litter out on the road,” he said. “They don’t throw mattresses and old TV sets and things like that off of bridges and things.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.