ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard said he will push for new, more extensive penalties for those caught dumping trash illegally throughout the city as he and others continue to find dump sites throughout East Albany.
Howard discovered an illegal dump site off Thornton Road not far from the campus of Dougherty Comprehensive High School last week while taking one of his frequent drives through his ward.
In multiple locations throughout the thicket of pines and wiregrass are piles of garbage and construction debris, just off small vehicle trails that connect Thornton Road to access roads stretching all the way to Mock Road.
As Howard and Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful Director Judy Bowles walk through the mess, a deep-seeded frustration bubbles up from the commissioner.
"It's just sad," Howard said. "Why people dump this stuff at all is beyond me, but why you'd drive across town to dump it in my ward is just crazy," he said, holding up a bill found amid the trash with a Carriage Lane address.
For Bowles it's infuriating.
She's been fighting illegal dump sites for years as head of KADB; always making sure to prosecute and fine wherever she can.
"People know that this is wrong," she says. "But, they do it anyway. So, in my mind, they can at least pay for it."
And this site isn't the only one. Howard has received tips from constituents that there are illegal dump sites at remote locations all along the east side, even back up close to the Flint River near Paul Eames Sports Park.
And while Howard will help prosecute those who discarded the tons of trash off Thornton Road, he admits that the problem starts with changing the hearts and minds of people.
"People have to have pride," Howard said. "You can have all the laws in the world, but if people don't want to do better, or live better or make their communities better ... people don't care. You can have all the social programs in the world and hand out all you want to, but before anything is going to change people are going to have to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps."
Despite what he said was a chronic self-esteem and image problem by those who live in East Albany, Howard says he will still push to increase the penalties for illegal dumping in a move he hopes will help stem the tide of those who discard their trash improperly.
"We're going to go after them," Howard said. "And we know that businesses are doing it to ... dumping this construction stuff out there ... and if we catch them, you bet someone is going to be paying; and take their business license too."
To report an illegal dump site, call 311 to have it reported to Albany Code Enforcement.