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Mayor says littering could cost you plenty

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard says that anyone convicted of littering will not only pay a minimum $500 fine and be required to do community service but will also be identified as litters in the local news media. Penalties for offenders were discussed Saturday by service volunteers, as well as city law enforcement and legal officials.(Staff Photo: Jim West)

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard says that anyone convicted of littering will not only pay a minimum $500 fine and be required to do community service but will also be identified as litters in the local news media. Penalties for offenders were discussed Saturday by service volunteers, as well as city law enforcement and legal officials.(Staff Photo: Jim West)

ALBANY — Mayor Dorothy Hubbard is ready to make some community members famous, she said, but she’s not sure if they’ll enjoy it. Presiding over her Call to Service assembly at the Law Enforcement center Saturday, Hubbard was blunt as to the fate of convicted litterers in Albany.

“When they go trial we’ll have some pictures for the newspaper,” Hubbard said, “and news about how much they were fined and if they’re repeat offenders. We’re also going to ask media to be a part of this as (the offenders) do their community service. That’s the declaration. We are serious We’re declaring war.”

The “war room,” was filled, not only with many of the volunteers from phase one of Hubbard’s Call to Service — the education and cleanup phase, but with law enforcement personnel, including Albany Police Chief John Proctor and Capt. Tom Jackson with the Dougherty County Police Department. Assistant City Manager Wes Smith was there, as well as City attorney Nathan Davis, City Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson, City Commissioners and assorted city and county officials.

Now, Hubbard and the others are moving forward with phase II of the initiative — the enforcement phase. Proctor backed up Hubbard’s harsh statement to litterers with a warning of his own.

“If littering is witnessed, if we have an accurate tag number, particularly when litter is coming out of a vehicle, we will locate that person, and if nothing else, inform them they’ve been shown to be littering, and we will talk to them about their action. Maybe the first time would be a warning, but my officers have been instructed to write a citation.”

Albany Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver said he intends to crack down hard on littering, which could be as “minor” as paper drink cup or cigarette butt tossed casually from a car window.

“I don’t like dirt. I don’t like filth,” Weaver said, “Even if you have a pickup truck and things are flying off the back and out of windows, that’s littering. Whether you believe you have to have intent or not, that’s littering.”

Weaver said first offenders in his court would face a mandatory $500 fine and be ordered to pick up the trash of others. Second offenses would bring a higher fine, Weaver said, and third offenders could be charged as much as $1,500.

Judy Bowles, director of Keep Albany-Dougherty County Beautiful, has been a major force for progress in this and other cleanup initiatives. Bowles said that in the year of phase one activities, 140 teams have signed up and “adopted” areas around specific neighborhoods or businesses to keep them clean.

“We’ve done a year of education,” Bowles said. “Now we’re moving into the enforcement phase. If you choose to break the law, then your friends and neighbors will see your picture in the paper and know that you’re a litterer.”

Bowles said that in 2012 the state of Georgia spent $16 million in taxes picking up litter from the sides of roads and highways.

“We should be using those resources for productive things,” Bowles said. “You don’t think about it, but even when you flick a cigarette butt out of the window, then it rains and it goes down into our storm drain system. That tobacco is potent. It goes into the Flint River and affects the eco system. Our goal is not to write citations or name people in the media. Our goal is to — ‘please don’t do it.’”