ROCKINGHAM — Roadside trash remains a problem across Richmond County.
So much so that County Manager Bryan Land referred to it as an “epidemic” during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners.
Land told commissioners during his report that 317 bags of garbage — for a total of 3.5 tons — were picked up along 20 roadways, in addition to 10 tires, last month by county staff and Department of Transportation forces.
Solid Waste Enforcement Officer Allen Hodges investigated two illegal dump sites and issued three citations or notices, Land continued.
A little later, Commissioner Jimmy Capps asked Land if the trash problem was “getting any better … or are we holding our own or what?”
“It’s still a major epidemic, Mr. Capps,” Land replied. “We’re doing everything we can, we’ve got three individuals now working every day.”
Land said several of the commissioners have called about specific areas and the county workers have “jumped on” those problem spots, in addition to the 20-25 roads randomly chosen for cleanup each month.
“Are we better off than we were or …” Capps aked again.
“No,” Land said. “It’s just like cleaning up behind a kid. I swear, there’s just as much now as when I first started tracking this five years ago.”
County records do show a decline in recent months, from 8.8 tons in September to 5.4 tons in November.
“I wish I had an answer for it,” Land said.
At the beginning of the meeting, state Sen. Tom McInnis said he had received a letter from Commissioner Don Bryant in regards to littering.
“It is a problem,” McInnis said. “One of the challenges that we have is that if we use prison labor, it costs $1,300 to $1,500 a mile; if we put it out on bids … it’s $300 to $500 a mile.”
Later, during Land’s report, Bryant asked why the price tag was higher to have inmates pick up garbage.
McInnis stepped back up to the podium, giving “a myriad” of reasons, including: insurance; the cost of time and overtime for officers who have prisoners “under the gun;” and the equipment.
“The part that we pay the prisoners … is insignificant,” McInnis said. “By the time you add all that other stuff, you can’t work ‘em in certain conditions — there’s more federal bureacracy than anything else … the private contractors … (are) able to do it significantly cheaper.”
Land said he’d like to work with the state to “put some more legal teeth in this; get these folks in the court system and fine them.”
McInnis, too, said strong enforcement would help more than just hiring someone to keep the roads clean, which he said he would work on during the short session of the General Assembly.
“These people, when they put something out there and they’re smart enough to leave their address on it, need to bring ‘em up here to the courthouse,” McInnis said. “I hate to take money out of people’s pockets, but if you’re gonna litter, you need to pay for it.
“Doggone it, quit littering. There ain’t no need in it.”