Litter problem tops Webster Parish Police Jury meeting

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The Webster Parish Police Jury has long debated the issue of litter in the parish, and two agents with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries were on hand to talk to jurors about the litter laws and explain how they work.

Agents Kenny Balkom and Michael Kelley explained the laws, breaking down how and when citations are given – and the problem of catching people throwing out their trash onto the roadways.

Balkom says there are three types of littering as defined by law – gross littering, intentional littering and simple littering.

“You have three types of litter,” he said, “gross litter, which is your household garbage, intentional litter, and there’s two types of intentional litter with the new cigarette law. You’ve got intentional litter where for instance you throw a coke can out the window driving down the road, and the other is throwing cigarette butts out the window, which incurs different fines and penalties.”

Simple litter is when litter occurs because they didn’t secure a load well, like an ice bag flying out of the back of the truck.

Balkom says the fines for gross litter is $500 to $1,000 and eight hours of community service in a litter abatement program for the first conviction. Fines for intentional litter is $250 and eight hours of community of community service. For throwing cigarette butts out the window, that’s a $300 fine and sentenced to eight hours of community service.

“The only option they have is under simple littering,” Balkom said. “The first violation is a $75 fine or the option of performing eight hours of community service. A lot of times with gross littering, we don’t see them throw it out. We go through the garbage, find an item that belongs to them and go to that address.”

Many times, he says, the person they visit will admit to throwing out their garbage, but other times they don’t. If they find something with their address on it, it’s assumed it belongs to them, Balkom says, so they will issue a citation.

Balkom says in 2014, their agency issued two tickets for intentional littering, five tickets for gross littering and two tickets for simple littering in Webster Parish. As of April 30, five tickets have been issued for intentional littering, he says.

Charles Odom says they are going to do whatever it takes to at least slow down littering.

“What we’re looking at now is to heck with the $500 fine,” he said. “We’re looking at putting their pictures in the paper and embarrass them. We’ve got targeted areas around the parish where every other week we can go in there and fill up a dumpster trailer of trash. This is a warning we’re coming.”

The central issue is getting the state to pay for the cleanup of state rights-of-way, says Juror Daniel Thomas.

“We’re having trouble finding a state agency that will pick up the state highways of litter,” Thomas said. “It’s falling back on the Webster Parish Police Jury to supply the funding for the deputy that actually oversees the prisoners. We have been trying to find a way to get the state to pick up their own rights-of-way.”

In the regular police jury meeting, Bossier Parish police jurors were in attendance on another matter, along with the parish administrator, Bill Altimus. He says they pick up the litter on the state’s rights-of-way, bag it up and leave the bags for the state to pick up.

“Litter is picked up on state highways and the state highway department will pick that up,” Altimus said, “but it has to be picked up and put on the side of the road. We pay for a bus, we pay for the guards. The sheriff also has a bus that he offers. The state highway department will send a truck out to pick up those bags.”

Altimus says Bossier Parish spends roughly $150,000 per year on litter abatement. Webster also spends thousands of dollars in combating the problem.

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