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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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County again tackling illegal dumping woes
Taxpayers foot hefty bill to clean up sites
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Courtesy Photo: Illegal dumping at green box sites continues to be a major problem in Franklin County, where there are 68 green box sites. The additional cost to clean up the illegal debris was $92,000 last year alone.

Friday, June 20, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

Illegal dumping continues to be a major problem in Franklin County, and the board of supervisors is contemplating harsher action to stop it.

Don Smith, public works director for the county, told the board during its meeting Tuesday that some green box sites are being inundated with illegal items, from tires to brush to construction debris.

"We've had complaints from citizens about the conditions of sites," he said, adding that the illegal dumping has been very difficult to curtail.

The county and sheriff's office have worked together in the past to monitor the sites better and tickets have been written, Smith said. But the court system is not cooperating, and when the people who are issued the tickets go to court, the charge is often either dismissed or the fine lowered, he added.

"Deputies are discouraged," he said. "They write tickets but nothing happens, and they feel like they have egg on their faces when they go to court."

Smith said cleaning up the illegal debris is expensive, and cost the county about $92,000 last year.

The county has 68 green box sites with 283 green boxes. Of those boxes, 95 are dumped twice a day, he said. Providing that service costs the county a total of about $1.3 million a year.

The illegal dumping is also hurting landfill revenues, Smith said. Chargeable landfill tons have decreased by 3,535 tons ($152,000) in the last fiscal year, while green box collections have increased by 118 tons for the same period.

Contractor waste (from Franklin and neighboring counties) in the boxes, especially lumber, can also be very damaging to the county's front-load trucks, he said, and those trucks cost $240,000 each.

In the county Code, violators caught dumping illegal waste (including construction debris and brush) can be charged with a Class I misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $2,500 and/or 12 months in jail. Those found guilty of depositing out-of-county household waste can be fined up to $35.

Smith said county staff has found that other counties, including Henry, have civil penalties for violations. In Henry County, someone caught dumping out-of-county waste faces a $250 civil fine, and prohibited commercial waste garners a $1,000 civil fine.

Civil fines do not go through the court system.

Supervisors Chairman David Cundiff agreed that the court system has been too lenient and suggested exploring the civil penalty possibility.

County attorney Jim Jefferson said he would need to research civil penalties because he is not sure where the authority comes from for counties to utilize them.

Jefferson also said that regardless of any penalties, violators must be caught first.

Gills Creek Supervisor Bob Camicia said violations occur regularly at the green box sites in his district, and harsher penalties are needed as a deterrent.

Camicia recommended raising the $35 fine to $500.

"It's got to be something people pay attention to and fear," he said.

Jefferson pointed out, though, that the major problem is not routine out-of-county household trash, but illegal debris that must be cleaned up from the ground around the green boxes and other construction waste illegally dumped into the boxes.

Those violations are Class I misdemeanors and already carry a hefty penalty.

Camicia said that, regardless of what is done, the first step is to make sure the county ordinance is in line with what the county wants to do, then concentrate on implementation.

Jefferson said he will research the civil penalty approach.

Snow Creek Supervisor Leland Mitchell said the county may also want to consider manning at least some green box sites where there is a problem.

"The cost (of cleanup) is directed at taxpayers," he said.

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