Inmates clean up county roadways

Published 2:40 am Monday, May 22, 2006

By By Janet Little Cooper
Escambia County jail inmates are doing more than just cleaning up their act; they are cleaning up the streets of Escambia County as well.
Non-violent offenders, accompanied by a part-time correctional officer, work at least one day a week loading a 10,000 – pound capacity dump trailer with roadside garbage that is littering Escambia County roadways.
The dump trailer was purchased with work release money according to the Escambia County Sheriff's Department.
"I have attended several meetings with the industrial development boards and Chambers in all three cities, which have all expressed to me on several occasions that the thing that hurts our county when recruiting industry is the trash along the highways," Escambia County sheriff Grover Smith said. "We want to do our part to help clean up the county so we are using inmate labor to pick up trash along the main highways through Atmore, Brewton and Flomaton."
This initiative to clean up the county is monitored and supervised by Nancy Barton the sheriff's department environmental officer. She has compiled a list of areas in the county that are heavily affected by litter and illegal dumps.
"The only way that we know about some of these areas is from phone calls we receive from residents who are concerned," Barton said. "Then we send crews out as often as we can to address those concerns. Our county is in such a condition, that if we relax our position on it (litter), the county is going to be a dreadful place to live."
A mandatory law requiring residents of Escambia County to have curbside garbage pickup was instated in 1994. Under this law, county residents are required to have their household garbage picked up weekly.
Residents of Atmore rely upon the City of Atmore for this service, while Brewton residents are under a contract with Allied Waste.
According to Barton, there is no excuse for the dumping of household garbage on area roadways due to the number of resources available to curb that problem.
The county is home to three dumps, two of which will accept household garbage. The City of Atmore Inert dump located on Poarch Road is the only county dump that will not accept household waste. The Highway 41 dump, operated by Allied Waste, and County Road 55, or Jay Road, dump will take household garbage but have restrictions on other items such as appliances.
The resources needed for proper dumping are available in the county, but are not always used by residents.
Inmates recently recovered 4,000 pounds of garbage that was illegally dumped on Curtis Road in Atmore according to Barton.
"That area was the beginning of a campaign to clean up some of the really bad areas," Barton said. "This was the first big pick up. Issues of illegal dumping that include tire dumps and hazardous waste are the top concerns of the sheriff's office now. They are extremely expensive to clean up. We have had two huge deposits of tires on James Road in Atmore. Fifty plus tires were dumped on May 12 and another 50 plus tires were dumped in the same spot May 15. Mayson Mill Pond Road and Gravel Pit Road near Brewton also have huge tire dumps."
Barton said that James Road is also home to a well-established unauthorized dump that people use on a regular basis. The area was recently burned, destroying everything flammable and in a matter of three weeks has already begun to back up with household garbage.
"Mostly this program is aimed at litter, but we are trying to clean up a few
of the illegal dumps throughout the city," Smith said.
Not only are the inmates cleaning up these illegal dumps, but they are also taking names. The work crews rummage through the garbage in an effort to identify the responsible person.
"If I can find a name," Barton said. "I send out a letter to the individual and give them the opportunity to get on the mandatory garbage collection with the city or Allied Waste. If we don't hear from them in 15 days or they refuse to do so, a warrant is issued for their arrest."
According to Barton, it would be much cheaper to pay the quarterly garbage fee than the fines associated with illegal dumping. A first conviction leads to a minimum fine of $250 while each conviction thereafter faces a minimum of $500 per each conviction.
"It is simple," Barton said. "We are just asking people to comply. I don't know if people just don't understand. The solution is simple and so inexpensive compared to the consequences. You would think it wouldn't be a problem, but for some reason people don't comply."
Barton said that she would like for people to be more aware of the littering problems that plague Escambia County.
"I would like to see it on everybody's mind," Barton said. " Sheriff Smith has made cleaning up these dumps possible by supplying the labor and the equipment. I hope residents realize the importance and join in the effort to help us be successful."

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