Litter woes

Published 2:19 pm Sunday, February 9, 2014

WINDSOR – Some of Bertie County’s roadways are pretty clean, while others are cluttered with litter. The question is what’s being done to make them cleaner?

This follows a presentation before the Bertie County Board of Commissioners at their monthly meeting here on Monday by County Planning Director Traci White and Nuisance Abatement and Litter Enforcement Officer Barry Anderson.

Under the program, according to White, are enforcement of the junkyards and abandonment of motor vehicles ordinance, litter control, illegal dumping investigations, and the roadside litter program; the latter of which works in concert for the North Carolina Department of Transportation in the coordination of everything from community service workers and volunteers to Department of Corrections inmates.

Anderson keeps monthly records of how much litter is picked up county-wide and who picks it up.

In 2013, 2,809 30-gallon bags of trash were picked up on Bertie County roadsides.

“Pick-ups rotate on different roads in the county,” said White. “They probably repeat on the main highways and corridors more than some of the (secondary) roads periodically.”

Anderson’s presentation included a handout, which he used to illustrate to the Commissioners the participation of those who do the roadside collections.

“I’m glad that we’re able to pick up as many bags as we’re able to pick up,” said White,” but there’s much more out there. While it’s a phenomenal amount that’s been picked up, it’s hard to believe that people will still just open their (vehicle) windows and throw their trash out.”

Commissioner Ronald “Ron” Wesson voiced concern about the dwindling lack of community service support since 2007 when Anderson began keeping figures on the pick-ups.

“I go out and try to get community service, but they fall off,” said Anderson. “I send in information for help, and we had a co-coordinator in addition to road officers, and her input was significant.  When (that person) left, there was a fall-off in participation.”

On the issue of inmate participation White said the program used to get inmates for roadside pick-ups at least two or three times per month, 10 at a time.

“When the economy took a turn for the worse a few years ago, they said they just couldn’t afford the resources because they also work with other DOT programs as well as other counties they have to attend to,” White said.

From 380 inmates in 2008 down to 230 in 2009 and now 120 for 2013 was a startling drop-off, noted Wesson.

“When I see 38,000 bags collected down to 28-hundred, that’s a big difference and a lot of litter that’s still sitting out there on the roads,” said Wesson.

A change in the way inmates’ participation is dispersed has been a significant difference, noted White. And it has had an impact on the county’s litter pick-up program.

“Due to the cost of fuel and funding and working with DOT to do a lot of different counties, so they just could not commit to have the additional units anymore,” White said.

“I’d make certain what they (Corrections) are doing to Bertie County is what they’re doing to everybody,” cautioned Wesson. “Because what we also have to do is re-engage communities because that is something we can control.  We just can’t afford this type of drop-off because it affects our quality of life.”

Commissioner Rick Harrell pointed out that because Bertie County has a landfill located on Republican Road in Aulander, Bertie ends up getting trash from surrounding counties trucked in.

Anderson said he continues to discuss community service participation with the local judiciary and the churches, but it is challenging.

Harrell also questioned why some community service, such as the litter pick-up carried out by Perdue Farms in Lewiston and Windsor, was not noted in the abatement report.

“We have a problem,” said Wesson. “We need to re-commit. Whether it’s the faith-based community, the business community, or the judges, we have to find a way to do it inside. Pull all the interested parties together and ask everybody to re-commit.”

White said not all volunteer service was included in the report, such as “Adopt-A-Highway” but Harrell said those absences would skew the numbers.

“These are roads we need some say-so on because the citizens of Bertie County have complaints about trash on the sides of the road,” said Commissioner John Trent.

Trent, Harrell, and Wesson suggested Anderson and White report back to the Commissioners on how follow-up is done.