By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Saying it was time to take “drastic steps” on confronting Pearl River County’s litterg problem, Supervisor Anthony Hales, Sr., on Monday called for hefty increases in fines for persons found guilty of littering.
Currently, the county’s maximum penalties for anyone convicted of littering is $1,000 per incident and/or six months in jail. Hales called for raising the maximum fine to $5,000.
“It is getting so bad that we have to take some drastic steps to combat the issue,” Hales told fellow supervisors. He said residents have to act more responsibly in regards to the issue.
He told supervisors that he also wanted to raise the reward given to individuals turning in a person seen littering, from $250 to $350. Currently, if a resident turns in a person for littering and that person is convicted, the informer is rewarded with $250.
However, County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said that in the 10 years he’s been county administrator, the county has paid out the reward only two times.
Board attorney Joe Montgomery asked supervisors to hold off making any type of decision until he checks the state law concerning the matter.
He said there might be maximum penalties designated by the state, outlining what the county can charge for violations of its littering laws, and the county might already be at the maximum limit.
“I need to check state statutes on this issue before you act,” Montgomery told the board.
Hales also suggested that a neighborhood watch group, like the current neighborhood crime watch groups, could be set up specifically to capture litterers. “You might even set up motion cameras to capture the picture of those littering,” said Hales. “If you can capture a naked man in a cemetery on camera, surely you could capture a person littering, too.”
Hales referred to a recent incident where a resident, trying to capture paranormal activity on camera in a cemetery, set up a motion camera, and captured an image of a naked man parading through a local graveyard at night.
Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith said he supported what Hales was saying. Said Smith, “Just recently I passed a sign saying litterers would be fined $250, and right beneath the sign was a pile of trash someone had recently thrown out.” Smith also urged residents to clean up roads in front of their homes.
Added Smith, “There’s trash all along Sycamore, and when it rains, it all piles up at one end of the ditch.”
Supervisors recently cut back on prisoner cleanup crews from five to three, said Lumpkin, because of budget restrictions, and he told supervisors that they had cut their cleanup budget from $160,000 to $100,000 for the fiscal 2012-13 year in order to save money.
Sheriff David Allison said that his department receives a “good many” complaints about littering and “when we can prove it, we cite the person doing the littering.”
Hales also said that some of the rural garbage haulers contribute to littering when they don’t properly secure their garbage loads on their truck. “That is a contributing factor, and I know we have let some of these mom-and-pop garbage haulers slide by,” said Hales.
“These people sometimes drive through the communities, and garbage is flying off the back of their trucks,” added Hales.
Said Allison, “We have cited a number of them, and they seem to be doing better.”
Allison said three county trash pickup crews “can’t keep up.” He said only one crew works county roads and the other two state roads. The county is reimbursed for picking up along state routes.
Supervisors said they plan to take some action on the issue, as soon as Montgomery furnishes them with information on just what they can legally do.
In other matters:
— Supervisors said they will ask for proposals from companies to supply telephone service to inmates at the county prison at Millard. The county currently makes 55 percent of fees charged to inmates for making telephone calls from banks of phones installed in the lounge areas. Supervisors also said they would consult with Sheriff David Allison while making a decision on the matter. The current contract with CCI expires in April. Supervisors took the action after Gram Hopkins, account manager, Securus Technologies, Madison, made a proposal to the board.
— Supervisors asked Montgomery to review a proposal from Judicial Correction Services, Inc., a private probation company that already runs operations for city court systems in Poplarville and Picayune. The system, run by the company in coordination with the court and judges, if approved by supervisors, would be installed in the Justice Court System. The company tracks convicted people who owe court fines. The system would not cost the county any money and is credited with increasing collection and payment of fines in the Picayune and Poplarville city court systems, said Jan Davis, JCS manager. Picayune City Court Judge G. Gerald Cruthird, who happened to be at the courthouse on another matter, was asked by supervisors how the system was working in Picayune. “We have had one year’s experience with the company and its system, and it’s been very positive, a very good relationship,” said Judge Cruthird. Davis said her company was not a “collection agency” but a private probation company that significantly increases the amount of fines collected by tracking offenders. The company operates in several Southeastern states and throughout Mississippi.
— Supervisors approved travel for four sheriff’s department personnel to a 96-hour State Jail Officers Certification in Gulfport Feb. 13 to 28.
— Supervisors went into an executive session to discuss personnel and matters involving litigation.
— Supervisors recessed to Feb. 20.