Garbage service enforcement leads commission discussion

Published 10:30 am Thursday, May 30, 2024

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Lowndes County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Jeremy Marvin presented a plan for overseeing garbage service enforcement to the County Commission May 28. The presentation, which occurred at the commission’s rescheduled fourth-Monday meeting, came at the request of County Administrator Jacquelyn Thomas in an effort to bring littering and trash collection back into line with county standards.

“I’ll start with the elephant in the room, which is garbage,” Marvin said as he distributed packets to commissioners for review. The first thing you see is the list of every person in the county who is on the garbage service and is current with their bills.

“We are not here to enforce somebody paying their bills. We’re not bill collectors. My jo is to enforce compliance and enforce the law within the state of Alabama.”

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Marvin outlined the number of people not in compliance with the requirement for residents to keep garbage service and are thus in violation of state law.

“In order to get these people back on garbage service, back in compliance, [there is] a certain process that needs to be done,” Marvin said.

Part of the presentation included a proposal to levy a $15 fine to residents in violation of the requirement. If service is not acquired, he explained, the next step could be obtaining a warrant for arrest.

County Commissioner Robert Harris raised a question regarding what connection the Sheriff’s office has with garbage enforcement. According to Harris, the county employs enforcement officers who should revise the process and enforce the requirement per their job description.

“We talked about the process that [enforcement officers] should go through,” Harris said. “They should already know [the requirements].

“I don’t know why the situation came up with the Sheriff’s department having to deal with this. We picked a solid waste officer. None of the [state] code said that it came under the Sheriff’s Department. So, how is it we are going over or thinking about going over to the Sheriff’s Department when the law says that we are supposed to choose a solid waste officer?”

Thomas explained to commissioners that overseeing enforcement officers fell under her office. The task, she added, required more time than her other duties allow.

Thomas asked West for help, she said, and the Sheriff, who was present for the meeting, said he was more than willing to assist. His office is often tasked with picking garbage off road rights-of-way, so assuming responsibility for improving and overseeing garbage service enforcement seemed a natural fit for his department.

After hearing the details of Marvin’s proposal, Commission Chairman Charlie King requested time to consider next steps.

Also appearing before the commission was Carmelia Arnold, president of the Lowndes County Unincorporated Wastewater Program, who provided updates on program progress and requested an appropriation of $25,000 from the commission for seed money and commissioners approved.

Arnold discussed the board’s efforts in recovering $500,000 in funding they say was received under the program’s original leadership, then transferred to another privately run organization.

After further discussion, King proposed a motion to have the board pursue legal action. Commissioner Dickson Farrior recommended seeking legal advice first.

Attorney Tenee Frazier, who was present as counsel in place of County Attorney Prince Chestnutt , said the commission’s ability to recover the funding through the courts would depend upon whether there is privity (a legal relationship) between the commission and the previous board. Legal reparations, Frazier explained, would be contingent upon proving damage to the commission.

In other business the commission:

* Learned that six trucks will go up for the county to purchase at the June 11 J.M. Woods equipment sale;

* Heard a plea from County Engineer David Butts requesting all calls for tree removal be submitted through E-911 dispatchers;

* Approved a letter of support for West Alabama Public Transportation;

* Appropriated $1,000 to the Lowndes County Health Advisory Board from Commissioner Joshua Simmons;

* Granted $2,000 to the STEP program from Commissioner Dickson Farrior; 

* Signed approval of a CDBG;

* Approved Cadence Bank financing six dump trucks;

*Appropriated $4,000 to the Lowndes Community Life Center with $500 from Commissioners Harris, Farrior, King and Joseph Blankenship and $2,000 coming from Simmons;

* Approved May 13 meeting minutes; and

* Heard confirmation from Frazier that according to an Attorney General’s Opinion, at a minimum the county commission’s minutes must reflect motions made and seconded and by whom and the number of votes for and against matters put to a vote. Frazier added that the commission could vote to require additional information be included in the meeting minutes.

The Lowndes County Commission will hold its next regular meeting on June 10 at 10 a.m. inside the Lowndes County Commission Chambers of the Charles Smith Annex Building.