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

County wants to impose civil fines for illegal dumping

Friday, July 18, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

Franklin County residents will get a chance to air their opinions on proposed changes to fines related to the illegal dumping of garbage.

On Tuesday, the board of supervisors approved the changes, which would include hefty civil fines, and sent them to a public hearing.

Those civil fines, which range from $250 for a first offense on placing out-of-county garbage in a county green box to a $1,000 fine on first-offense illegal dumping of commercial waste, can be collected without going through the court system.

The county could pursue any unpaid civil penalties in the same manner as a civil judgment.

Criminal charges would be levied for second or subsequent offenses.

Discussion related to illegal dumping and the current Franklin County Code started last month when Don Smith, public works director for the county, told the board that some green box sites are being inundated with illegal items, from tires to brush to construction debris.

Cleaning up the illegal debris is expensive, he said, costing the county about $92,000 last year.

The illegal dumping of commercial waste is also hurting landfill revenues, to the tune of about $152,000 a year, Smith said. At the same time, green box tonnage has increased.

In the current 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, which would rise to $500 plus court costs under the proposed changes.

But at last month's meeting Smith said the court system is not cooperating, and when the people who are issued a ticket go to court, the charge is often either dismissed or the fine lowered.

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

On Tuesday, Boone District Supervisor Ronnie Thompson said some testimony in court from county staff may get the point across that it is a serious problem.

"The message has already been sent," said county Attorney Jim Jefferson, indicating the commonwealth's attorney's office is aware of the situation.

Jefferson said the court needs to "get the right case," with testimony that would be effective.

Civil penalties, a process Henry County and other jurisdictions use, avoid the court proceedings related to criminal charges.

The proposed changes say "any civil penalty levied ... shall be paid within 30 days ... to the Franklin County Treasurer. Any civil penalties herein imposed by any court shall be collected in the same manner that civil judgments may be collected and may be docketed by abstract filed in the circuit court clerk's office if levied in general district court, in which case such judgment will become a lien on real estate owned by that person."

Supervisors voted unanimously to send the proposed changes to a public hearing, which is set for Tuesday, Aug. 19 at 6 p.m. in the supervisors meeting room.

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