New Castle News

January 23, 2013

County vows to prosecute blue bin violators

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The commissioners vow that Lawrence County will prosecute anyone who continues to misuse the blue recycling bins.

At their meeting last week, the commissioners said trash, furniture and other unwanted but not recyclable items have been left around the bins in lot near the courthouse.

They have warned that cameras are posted on the premises, and anyone who violates the rules is likely to be cited through the local district judge’s office.

Commissioner chairman Dan Vogler said last week that the county recycling office already has prosecuted offenders who left unwanted items strewn around the bins.

Discussions about the littering continued at yesterday’s meeting. Vogler said the problem seems to occur only at one or two bin locations.

Clarence “Butch” Nelson of New Castle suggested the county post signs at the bins notifying violators that they are under surveillance and will be prosecuted.

Vogler said he saw something on the ground recently at the site near the courthouse that looked like a rug.

“I couldn’t even tell what it was,” he said.

County recycling and solid waste director Jerry Zona said a camera was posted at the courthouse site near the end of the summer.

“We’ve done pretty well with it,” he said, noting his  assistant, Megan Gahring, since then has mailed at least 40 warning letters to people, along with rules about what can and cannot be recycled.

 The letters are sent to owners of vehicles whose license plates are caught on camera if someone in that vehicle leaves something outside the bins.

“Legally that is littering and is considered scattering rubbish,” Zona said, adding, “It  usually comes down to people being lazy.”

Gahring reviews the tapes to find the violators, he said. The cameras are motion and heat activated and the camera trips and takes pictures every few seconds when a car pulls up.

“It plays out like a movie on the computer,” he said. “Reviewing it is time consuming, but it’s not that difficult to do.”

Gahring records the information, and under the state vehicle code, the owner, not the occupant, is responsible for the actions of the person in the car, unless the owner goes to court and identifies the offender.

“Most people who receive the letters call in and we talk to them about why it’s important to put the items into the bins,” Zona said, adding, “they’re pretty receptive and understanding.”

However, if people leave non-recyclables such as furniture, “we cite them.”

His office cited two people in December. One pleaded guilty and paid a $300 fine plus court costs.

The sheriff’s office runs the license plates, files the citations and goes to court for the county.

The bins are emptied twice weekly, and Zona and Gahring clean up the non-recyclables and put them into the courthouse dumpster.

“The irony is that the site is used by people who have curbside recycling,” Commissioner Steve Craig commented.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)