LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday night declared war on roadside littering.
“This is a serious problem in our county,” Commissioner David Edge said. “I remember as a kid I threw trash out (littered). I’m not proud of it. It’s something you do and never think about it. It’s one of those out of sight, out of mind things.”
Steve Edge, the county’s Solid Waste director, presented the commissioners with a proposal that he says with proper funding could go a long way in cleaning up litter along county roadways and providing litter law enforcement.
According to County Manager Ricky Harris, Steve Edge’s plan would require the hiring of at least two full-time law enforcement officers at a cost between $125,000 and $150,000 a year.
Steve Edge said that litter has been an ongoing problem that has been compounded by the loss of litter cleanup crews that previously were provided by the N.C. Department of Corrections. Inmate cleanup crews, he said, have been reduced by the state to reduce expenses.
“I do not see the state stepping back and providing more inmate cleanup crews,” he said.
Edge said the public will have to be “educated” on the issue and existing litter laws, which include fines from $250 to $1,000, must be enforced.
The commissioners expressed amazement that no one, including Sheriff Ken Sealey, can recall any tickets being issued for littering.
“I can’t say if they do, or they don’t,” Sealey said when asked if his deputies write tickets for littering on a routine basis. “I know if they run up behind someone littering they will give them a ticket.”
The sheriff said that his deputies will start watching for littering and cite those who violate littering laws. He said he would send a memo to all of his employees, as well as to the Robeson County Law Enforcement Executive Association, asking for help with litter law enforcement.
All of the commissioners said that they receive complaints constantly from people angry with the way trash piles up along roadways.
“I stopped behind a car at an intersection and saw a lady dump her ash tray right in the middle of the road,” Commissioner Tom Taylor said. “That’s not caring for the county.”
“Issuing some tickets might help,” Commissioner Jerry Stephens said. “With businesses looking to come into the county we need to address this problem.”
Ernie McCray, a 30-year county resident originally from Baltimore, said that people found littering should be made to clean up their mess.
“We need to put the people doing the littering out there to clean it up, no matter how long it takes,” McCray said. “If we can put a man on the moon or manage to find a plane shot down by a missile, we should be able to find a way to get rid of litter.”
Commissioner Noah Woods reminded the commissioners that littering is a problem facing all communities, not just Robeson County.
“We know this is a serious issue and we are going to deal with it,” he said, “but this is an issue all counties are having to deal with. It’s not unique to Robeson County.”
In other business, Fairmont Town Manager Linda Vause did not attend Monday’s meeting to discuss with the commissioners a request from her town board for information on the possibility of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Department providing law enforcement services to Fairmont. Vause was ill Monday.
But Terry Evans, a member of the Fairmont Board of Commissioners, spoke, although not as an official representative of the town. Evans told the board that it was his request to the Fairmont town board that the feasibility study be conducted. He said that there are services being duplicated in the town that if provided by a single entity could save the town money.
“We are broke,” Evans said. “We need to release some cash … . I’m not talking about forever. Maybe just two or three years until we get back on our feet… . As a county you should help us.”
Harris said that it is his recommendation that the county not provide law enforcement for Fairmont.
“I don’t think we should do it because it would set a precedent for other towns, the sheriff would have to hire additional staff, and I have liability concerns,” he said.
The commissioners on Monday also:
— Agreed to provide $36,000 to the Sheriff’s Office to help equip its 20-member SWAT team with vests. The sheriff agreed to provide the extra $20,000 from his department’s budget.
The SWAT team’s current vests were all purchased five years ago and need to be replaced, Sealey told the commissioners.
“These vests are not the vests we wear every day,” Sealey said. ‘These are the vests we wear when we make entrance to a building in a high-profile case.”
— Agreed to send a letter to the state urging that a law be amended to allow Ballpark Road, Pinwheel Circle and Sand Pit Road to be re-designated from “private” road to “secondary road.” The change would allow for the two miles of roadway to be paved and maintained by the state.
— Heard a presentation from April Oxendine, the Innovative Approaches Initiative coordinator at the Robeson County Health Department, about a program that works with families with children up to age 21 who have special health-care needs. According to Oxendine, there are 10,000 children in Robeson County that have been diagnosed with health ailments that put them in the category.
— Approved the appointments of Darlene Jacobs, executive director of the Robeson County Church and Community Center; Vee Oxendine, an employee of Primary Health Choice, and Tynicia Walton to serve on the Robeson County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.
— Approved the low bid of $767,600 from Herring/Rivenbark for the Robeson countywide water distribution system.
— Approved the low bid of $2,916,371 from Turner Murphy Company Inc., of Rock Hill, S.C. , for expansion of the Lumber Bridge water treatment plant.
— Approved the low bid of $370,000 for a siloxane treatment system from DCL American. This system is for use at the county landfill in St. Pauls.
— Heard a brief presentation from the Rev. Robert Davis, former president of Robeson County’s chapter of the NAACP, dealing with his concerns about how commissioners are distributing discretionary funds.