At the Thursday, March 2 meeting of the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, authority members, along with Executive Director Terri Tyler, discussed litter control in the county.
Tyler said she had approached the county commission with a litter cleanup proposal, which the county approved, giving the authority $50,000 for the litter fund.
Also, Tyler said she had spoken with Wetzel County Sheriff Mike Koontz, along with New Martinsville Police Department Chief Tim Cecil, concerning litter control. Tyler said she was going to try to meet with the officers, along with the Division of Natural Resources officer, to try to see if there was anything to do in regards to litter control, such as implementing fines.
Tyler discussed a couple of pieces of legislation that is in the process of being passed. One piece of legislation increases the litter fines. Tyler said this piece of legislation has passed in the House of Delegates.
Authority Chairman Mark Cochran said he had concerns about the authority's litter control initiatives. He said the authority spends money to pick up litter, but "We have an obligation to go the next step to see what we can do to stop litter from happening." Cochran said he would like to see a comprehensive plan.
Tyler noted that a litter control officer could help with the situation. She said the authority could apply for the funding of the officer through the Department of Environmental Protection. She said the officer could be paid approximately $500 a month. Tyler explained the county commission would be in charge of appointing the officer. She said either a city police officer or a sheriff's deputy could be the litter control officer. "Anyone can do it. Anyone can take the course," she explained, but added that position would be more effective if the individual was carrying "a badge and a gun."
Tyler said the grant application has to be written by May 31.
"Think about it," she encouraged the authority, "if it is something we want to try for and get."
The authority continued discussion on litter and possible litter control initiatives. Authority member Mike Durig noted that around his home, "You can see plastic bags going through the air," even though places that use plastic bags, such as Wal-Mart, has trash cans and recycling bins, specifically for bags.
It was noted that a tool, such as a billboard, might not work because the person that is littering is not going to pay attention to the sign.
"You have to change morals," remarked Authority Member Daniel Witschey. "I can't understand the mentality of throwing something out the window... I can't get my head around that," he said.
Former authority member Steve Conlon, who was present at the meeting, spoke about litter he saw while recently riding his tractor. Conlon said his travels included a trip over Route 89, Brock Ridge, and Route 7. "The amount of trash I could see from the tractor seat is different..."
Conlon explained there is a mandatory truck stop on top of Brock Ridge, before commuting downhill onto Route 7. "There is a brake check there. Every escort stops there... I look over the hillside, and it is littered with styrofoam meal boxes."
Conlon said the trash is not from locals and suggested the litter comes from oil and gas workers.
Conlon suggested the authority should go to the Oil and Gas Task Force meetings, held at the Mollohan Center every few months. "Get the gas industry to take ownership of part of this problem. The litter is much greater than before 2008. We've seen it grow, and we know from the types of containers that are being thrown out..." Conlon said Cheseapeake Energy once implemented its own crew to pick up litter.
"The companies need to own up to 30 to 50 percent of the litter and work within their own companies and educate their guys."
Tyler noted that EQT has taken over the rights formerly leased by Stone Energy. She said EQT wanted to implement a "Keep America Beautiful" campaign. However the training, for local students, would take several hours.
"We cannot get everyone together for training during the school day... They are wanting kids in the high school, and I can't get them out of the high school or do it on a Saturday. They have too many other things going on," Tyler said.
In another matter, Tyler presented the monthly recycling report to the authority. She said that for the month of February, $23,554.5 pounds of recycling was collected. This amount stems from recyclable materials dropped off during the authority's Saturday recycling, as well as materials picked up from the schools within the county.
As to the Saturday recycling, Tyler noted that new people are arriving all the time to drop of recyclables.
Also, Tyler noted, cardboard is now being picked up form the Salvation Army store in New Martinsville.
In another matter, Tyler noted that the 2016 audit report came back "clean." It was agreed that the authority would pay $2,275 for the audit, which was conducted by Brenda Botizan.
In another matter, Tyler requested that the authority approve the renewal of the radio advertising contract. She said the new campaign would last through baseball season and radio advertisements for the authority would be played twice during each Pittsburgh Pirates game. She noted the cost would be $265 a month, for the next four months.
"The reason I hate to give up this advertising is, especially with the litter crew going out, we give people an idea of where the crew is at and advise them to be aware of the crew," Tyler explained.
Durig asked if some of the money from the litter fund could take care of some of the advertising.
"We could maybe split it with them for those four months," she said, but explained that the advertising is used for messages concerning the litter cleanup, as well as recycling. She said advertising is also used to "announce anything special we have going on, tire collection and everything."
Tyler said in July, of 2016, the commercials were aired 134 times. "It varies from 75 to 100, and they change the advertisement as many times as we like."
Witschey made the motion that the authority approve of the new advertising contract. Durig said he questioned the matter but would second it.
The authority then discussed litter fund allocation. Tyler noted the authority receives money from fines, though it is sporadic. Tyler said the authority usually receives the funds around four times a year, at $100 each.
"I had a couple of ideas," she noted.
Witschey asked if the money was restricted, and Tyler said it was not, but she would like to restrict it.
"I would like to see us put the money in for community projects, such as the next item on the agenda - a request from rotary for a donation."
She continued, "I would like to see the litter fine money go into the litter fund, or be used for projects with kids. We do the car show every year, the Halloween car show... One year we gave Danny (Westfall) money for the kids at the ice rink. We sold cans and used those funds, but for anyone that comes and asks for donations... I'd like to see us have that little bit of money. This month we had a fine for $100, so that $100 can be used for something."
It was noted that, right now, the money from litter fines goes into the authority's general fund.
Durig said he would like to see the money stay in the general fund.
"It's nice to give," he agreed, but added that one request would open the door to other requests.
Witschey noted that he doesn't mind using the funds for a cause but added that the Rotary's request, for donations toward drug awareness, is a bit apart from the authority's message.
Tyler disputed that the donation really wasn't that far from the authority's message as "our kids are picking up needles left and right."
Durig suggested the item be tabeled for now.
The authority then moved on to the next agenda item, the request from Rotary. Tyler said the Rotary is having a fundraiser dance March 11. Part of the fundraiser will include a silent auction involving giveaway baskets.
Tyler explained the monies will go to a drug awareness program.
"Everyone should know the drug problem is not getting any better; it is getting worse. We end up with litter of needles."
Tyler noted that those involved in the countywide litter cleanup, last year, picked up numerous needles.
"If we get rid of drugs, we get rid of needles."
It was noted that that Rotary requested $50 to $60, which would then be used to buy items for the basket. The items would be made out of recycled materials.
Chairman Cochran asked for a motion on the matter. However no motion was made.
In another matter, during public comment, Conlon suggested the authority implement bumper stickers to spread the word on litter control.
"You are talking about making people think about litter control."
Conlon also suggested that Tyler hire "a certain number of new people," for litter cleanup this year. "Mix in some new ones... mix in a problem one, and use this experience as a learning experience for kids."