One might say there are more ways than one to “clean up the county” — and for that matter, the entire state.
Despite countless efforts of local law enforcement, the Logan County Commission and other organizations such as LEAD, litter and open garbage dumps continue to plague the area and other portions of our mountainous state. And, just as we prepare to turn the corner on one of the worst winters in many years, it appears there is legislative action coming obviously designed to help curtail the menacing problem.
House Bill 4014 sponsored by several area delegates passed in the House January 20th is currently pending in the Senate Judiciary, according to Brandon Hatfield, who is responsible for the preparation of the bill. It would become effective 90 days after passage meaning it would be enforceable about the time our beautiful hills and valleys begin to display there “green” wonders and at the same time cover up the filth left by humans.
The purpose of the bill is to amend the definition of litter to include a provision that provides vegetable, fruit and other plant material that is naturally occurring and biodegradable to not be included in the definition of litter, so long as the disposed amount does not exceed three pounds. However, the most important part of the bill will be to significantly increase criminal penalties for littering.
If enacted as expected, the penalty for improperly disposing of anything weighing less than 100 pounds will dramatically affect a violator’s wallet. For instance, if you’re caught throwing just one McDonalds hamburger wrapper on the ground or out a vehicle window, the minimum penalty will be $250 and can be as high as $2,000. In addition to the fine, there is $160.25 court cost, a $200 civil penalty and the community service penalty increases to “not less than 24 hours nor more than one hundred hours.”
The bottom line is reflected in the following example: cigarette butts that are so often routinely tossed from many automobile windows will cost a violator a minimum of $610.25 and possibly community service. Allow us to emphasize the word “minimum.”
For those violators who seem to think it is alright to deposit such items as stoves, refrigerators and other unwanted materials in our hills, creeks and rivers it’s going to be much worse. The minimum fine for a violator will be $2,000, $160.25 court costs, a $200 civil penalty and up to 200 hours of cleanup.
For several years the Logan County Commission has allowed free dumping for Logan County residents at three locations, Logan, Man and Chapmanville. Many people take advantage of the service usually done in summertime. Non-violent regional jail inmates have also been used to help curb the problem. However, there are those who still choose to violate the law.
Admittedly, it is difficult for law enforcement to catch many violators; plus, many more litter warning signs need placed throughout Logan County. However, the public should know that if you see someone committing a littering violation there is something one can do. Provided there is proof, any person can fill out a criminal complaint and present it to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. If the prosecutor reviewing the complaint believes there is enough proof to proceed, he or she will then present it to a magistrate. If the magistrate finds probable cause to believe a violation was committed, a summons or warrant may follow.
Local delegates Rupie Phillips, Ted Tomblin, Josh Barker, Jeff Eldridge and Justin Marcum are co-sponsoring the bill along with fellow delegates, Ferro, White, Diserio, Isquinta and Skaff.
In today’s age of cell phone cameras and other technology, it would only seem logical to dispose of small litter and other larger material in a proper way. After all, you never know who is watching.
And… you can’t say you haven’t been warned.