WILLIAMSON — At the recent council meeting March 25, Williamson Mayor Charlie Hatfield proposed that the city look into stiffening their current litter laws and fines.
Hatfield said the fines for litter in the city ordinance had not been changed in many years, and he hoped increasing the repercussions for someone who litters may deter them from doing so in the future.
“I want to stiffen these penalties,” Hatfield said. “Because, I’m sorry, but hitting them in the checkbook is the only way some people will get the idea that they need to quit littering.”
Hatfield said not only are the current fines for littering too low, but the ordinance does not address the issue of an illegal dump or give the city the ability to give stiffer fines for such dumps.
“People sometimes litter so much like in their backyard or places where they dump mattresses over a hillside, an illegal dump. Well, our ordinance really doesn’t address that,” Hatfield said.
Hatfield proposed during the meeting that Williamson city attorney Nathan Brown review the current fines for littering and illegal dumps that are enforced by West Virginia Code and see if it would be easier for the city to just adopt those laws rather than make their own.
He said illegal dumps sites appear throughout the city and then have to be cleaned up by Veolia employees, which is a financial burden to the city.
“The stiffer penalties would also cover our costs for when we do have to clean up a dump,” Hatfield said. “What it costs us to have them gather it up, transport it to the landfill and then come back is not cheap. We’ve got to have stiffer penalties to help cover those costs. Before, we’ve just been eating the cost.”
Currently under city ordinance, people who litter and it is their first offense can be fined om $50 to $100 and for a second offense the fines can be increased to $500.
If the city adopted WV Code 22-15A-4, they would have the ability to fine anywhere from $100 to $25,000 depending on the amount of trash dumped per pound and per cubic feet.
Hatfield said that increasing the fines would also bring in more revenue for the Municipal Court and even potentially create a position of a “litter control officer” in the future.
The Mingo County Sheriff’s Department has issued several fines for open dump sites throughout the county in recent weeks and has been investigating other illegal dumps.
During the month of March, hundreds of volunteers from Gilbert to Marrowbone picked up trash along the roadways in several scheduled community cleanups.
“If we’re really going to be serious about tourism, we’ve got to stay consistent with this effort of keeping our streams, our streets, our sidewalks and our hillsides free of all of this litter,” Hatfield said. “Because people aren’t going to come here from 400 miles away just to see our food wrappers, soda cans and all the other things you see.”
Hatfield said that Brown would review the proposed fines in place by the West Virginia Legislature and present them to the council members at the next meeting Thursday, April 8.