ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The cases of litter and illegal dumping around the county is getting a response with a new program.
During Wednesday's meeting,?Belmont County commissioners entered into contract with JB Green Team.
JB Green Team Executive Director Cliff Meyer gave a summary.
"We're attempting for a one-year trial period to do a litter and illegal dump site enforcement program," said Meyer, adding that the effort is being funded by the JB Green Team as an effort to clean up, identify and investigate sites within the county. "There have been identified over 200 sites at this point. We hope to make a huge dent in that."
He added that the program will hopefully result in improvements to communities and properties. He credited Sheriff David Lucas for his enthusiasm with the project and for working with his staff.
"The sheriff is our main driving force here," he said, noting that Lucas is in the process of selecting a deputy to enforce the program.
The initiative will begin in November.
Lucas praised the efforts of the JB Green Team, commissioners, law enforcement and other bodies for their cooperation in making this project a reality.
"The illegal dumping, dump sites and littering in Belmont County has been a problem. We get a lot of complaints," he said, adding that because they must prioritize deputies on the road, they have often been unable to address these issues even though they can receive as many as half a dozen to a dozen complaints weekly. "Now, with their support and backing, there's going to be a full-time deputy who's going to be working the illegal dump sites, littering enforcement. ... he's going to be out there every day."
He added that anyone caught illegally dumping will be charged.
Commissioner Matt Coffland added that the board is also working with the prosecutor's office.
"We want these illegal dump sites cleaned up, plus we want prosecuted the people doing it. Prosecuted to the fullest," he said, adding that illegal dumping is an eyesore and a discouragement to new businesses. "As a township trustee for 18 years, dump sites are a major problem."
Commissioner Charles R. Probst Jr. also noted the potential of the program. He pointed out the frequent complaints from residents.
"This is long overdue," he said. "The people of our county have to understand we're not going to tolerate this any longer."
"When we work together in different levels is when we accomplish the most," said Commissioner Ginny Favede. "Empowering the sheriff's department to take something that is illegal and has always been illegal, to actually put some teeth in it and allow someone to work full-time to scour our county."
She thanked all involved.
"We're looking forward to a much cleaner county," she said.
She added that the JB Green Team conducts two annual collections during March and April, as well as collections for electronics and hazardous wastes.
Former and present township trustees agreed that the program is needed and welcome.
Former Pease Township Trustee Michael Bianconni agreed that a full-time litter control officer is welcome. He added that the program is paid for through disposal fees, not tax dollars. He also pointed out the importance of public participation and reporting dumping activity.
"If you see something, say something," he said. "The public's got to speak up."
"This is one of the biggest things we run into in the townships, and we really need this," said Pultney Township Trustee Frank Schaffer.
"Dumping is a problem in all townships of the county," said Richland Township Trustee Greg Bizzarri. "It didn't just happen overnight."
He stressed the long-standing need to address this issue.
"It is a problem. It's against the law, and the people that do that, the sheriff and prosecutor are going to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law," he said, adding that issues such as roads have taken a priority. However, townships hold regular community clean-up days freely.
The vehicle is prepared and a deputy will be selected Friday.
Lucas said that complaints can be addressed to the sheriff's office administrative line at (740) 695-7933. Residents with questions about a site may contact the township trustees. The trustees will determine if the matter is an enforcement issue and notify the sheriff's office, and they will determine if the site meets the criteria of a junkyard.
DeFrank can be reached at email@example.com