Lawrence County commissioners want to enhance surveillance at the county’s 11 dumpsites by installing monitored security cameras at each site.
Last month commissioners voted to tighten enforcement of the dumpster rules posted at each site after recurring dumpster diving and excess dumping created public nuisances and health hazards.
In a commission work session Wednesday morning, District 3 Commissioner Kyle Pankey said a few arrests were made following the vote, but litter has begun to build up at problem sites again.
“Things were better for about two weeks, but the problems are continuing,” he said.
Pankey, who also serves as interim Solid Waste director, said two more arrests should be made next week after violators were caught on camera at a dumpster at the solid waste facility in Moulton.
Pankey said the violators’ vehicle tag numbers were caught on tape.
District 4 Commissioner Bobby Burch suggested installing solar-powered surveillance cameras that will monitor every public dumpster site in Lawrence County 24/7.
“We’re looking into cameras that use cellular data instead of operating off Wi-Fi because of their rural position,” said Burch, who received prices from a private company that offers security cameras and equipment for branches of law enforcement.
“We know, worst-case scenario, cameras that meet all the criteria we’re looking for—cameras that run off the LTE network, are solar-powered with monitoring capabilities, and are motion censored—the top price will be around $3,100,” he said.
He said the cameras to be installed would be monitored by a security company like ADT, who could notify the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office immediately.
“(Violators) will be caught in the act,” he said. “The system can be programmed with our regulations in mind... when the security team is alerted to a visitor, if they see a violation, they will call the Sheriff’s Office to notify a patrolling deputy. That deputy could probably be on-site within five to ten minutes.”
Burch said it could cost about $6,000 a year to have all the sites monitored.
Commissioners also considered raising the countywide garbage pick-up fee, which costs residents $14 monthly, to help offset the cost of providing the dumpster service.
“When I came into office, residents were paying $15 a month for the pick-up service, and it was contracted with an outside entity. Since then, we’ve acquired the new (solid waste) building, we added a new fleet and started our own program,” said Burch.
When the county started its solid waste program in 2012(?), Burch said it cost the county about $400,000 to get the program going, including new trucks, employees, and providing at least one $100 trash can to each county resident.
The county also initiated its recycling program in 2016. As of October 2019, the program has returned $60,139 to the school system since it was implemented, according to Recycle Outreach Coordinator Erin Logston.
The recycled material that is collected at various recycling dumpsters, located on school campuses and at businesses throughout the county, is and baled at a recycling facility to be sold.
“We keep that money made through the year and give it back to the Board of Education,” Logston explained.
After the recycling program’s first year of collecting, $13,454.83 was given back to the Lawrence County School System. In 2018, that amount was more than doubled when the Solid Waste Department presented the Board of Education with a check totaling $28,710.26.
Not only are schools saving money through that program, but the county saves businesses and residents money through the dumpster services we provide, Burch argued.
“Commercial dumpsters placed at businesses save the owners money, and residents are saving money with these public dumpsters in their communities,” he said.
Citizens who reside on the southern end of the county have at least a 45-minute drive to make it to the landfill, Burch added.
He said the commission is considering raising the garbage fee by $2 gradually.
District 1 Commissioner Jesse Byrd argued that raising garbage rates wouldn’t be fair to residents in his district, where fewer community dumpsters are placed because of their proximity to the landfill.
“People in my district are going to feel they’re being punished for problems that aren’t occurring in their neighborhoods,” Byrd said. “We don’t see these problems several of these other dumpster sites have.”
District 2 Commissioner Norman Pool, who was in favor of adding extra surveillance, said he wasn’t opposed to raising the fee if littering and dumpster diving persisted.
“I think we need to be patient,” said Pool. “If $1 more on the garbage bill will keep the service alive, I think it’s worth it, but we need to wait and see if things improve first.”
Pankey said his department spent $309,140 providing the free service to citizens in fiscal 2019, which included $32,200 in tipping fees, $170,000 for a dump truck, $18,140 for fuel for dump trucks, $53,500 on salaries and $13,700 for employee benefits.
“If we keep the program and the problem doesn’t stop, and the monthly fee doesn’t go up, pretty soon you are out of business,” Pankey said in a commission meeting last month.
In a regular meeting on Friday, commissioners voted 4-0, giving Pankey permission to negotiate and enter into a contract for the installation of monitored cameras at each site. District 5 Commissioner Joey Hargrove was not present for the meeting.
Commissioners also granted Pankey permission to revise dumpster rules and regulations as needed. During the Friday meeting, commissioners approved revisions to the rules currently posted at each site.
Pankey said larger signs with revisions that clarify the county regulations will replace old signage. The new posts will also state, “Video surveillance in use; violators will be prosecuted.”
Alabama legislatures passed a new litter law in September of 2019, which is intended to crack down on offenders across the state.
According to the legislation, littering is now a Class B misdemeanor, which means violators could face jail time up to six months and be fined up to $3,000 plus court fees.
In other business, commissioners approved the transfer of Lawrence County Road Department employee Rodney Lowery to county maintenance supervisor, which became effective Feb. 18.
The commission accepted the resignation of Jerry Williams, a Lawrence County Jail employee, effective Jan. 17. Commissioners also approved pay increases for three Sheriff’s Department employees; Wheeler Lovelady’s pay increased to $14.55 an hour, and Lucas Jenkins’ and Markus Solomon’s pays increased to $18.24 an hour.
The Lawrence County Commission meets on the second Friday of each month at 9 a.m. unless a special meeting is called. All meetings are open to the public.