The Union County Quorum Court discussed ways to prevent roadside trash from building up on local highways during their regular meeting this month, and will likely take action on a proposal from County Judge Mike Loftin next month.
Loftin approached Justices of the Peace with an idea to improve litter build-up on the side of county roads during the body's meeting on Nov. 17.
"We're picking these cans up on the side of the highway, and these new trucks we've got with the automatic arm on them, when they dump, if the wind's blowing and that trash is not bagged, it blows everywhere. That's where we're getting a lot of this trash on the side of the road," he explained.
Currently, the county is paying residents of the Wings of Love re-entry facility to pick up roadside litter at $500 for two workers each week or every other week, Loftin said.
"We're paying like $500 a weekend to get trash picked up for one day. It lasts about a week, maybe two weeks, and then you can't tell we've been there," he said. "I get complaints all the time about trash on the roadside."
He asked JPs to consider whether they might support an ordinance requiring that trash be bagged before its placed into trash cans for pick-up. Several JPs responded immediately that they would be in support of such a rule.
"I wish you'd had the ordinance today, because I'm all for that," said District 6 JP Cecil Polk. "I see the cans in my neighborhood all the time running over with junk and no bags."
When county residents previously put their trash into community dumpsters for pick-up, bagging was required, Loftin said. The City of El Dorado also requires that trash be bagged for pick up.
"When you put your garbage in that county can, once that garbage hits that can, it becomes the county's property. So that garbage in that can belongs to the county. The county can require them to put it in a bag; if it's not in a bag, the county can skip it," said District 1 JP Mike Dumas. "And if you don't put it in a bag, you don't get it picked up, and then if you dump it on the side of the road, we got out and go through it and we find your name, you'll be charged."
Several JPs highlighted other sources of highway litter, primarily junk that gets strewn along the road after blowing out of the bed of drivers' trucks.
"One of my pet peeves is that I'm a deer hunter and there's thousands of corn sacks up and down the highway this time of year," said District 7 JP Johnny Burson. "You throw it in the back, you know it's going to blow out."
JPs also questioned how they would get the word out if an ordinance requiring trash to be bagged was passed.
"I'd like some way to get the word out to the entire county. The municipalities could make it some way that they could get the word out to their area, but at the same time, we need to get the word out that we mean business on this," Polk said.
Loftin suggested taking out a radio ad or utilizing social media, while District 4 JP Gary New suggested putting together a mailer to let county residents know if there's a change.
"We could do that," Loftin said about the mailer. "There would be some expense to it; Solid Waste could cover that."
Burson questioned whether residents might request trash bags be provided to them.
"You can buy the bags. The county has bags for sale. But you don't have to buy those, you can buy them at Walmart as long as you get it in a bag," Dumas said.
"Doesn't have to be in a good bag, just in a bag," added Loftin.
No action was taken this month, but Loftin said he would draft an ordinance for JPs to consider at a future meeting.
"I don't see anyone objecting to it. It's for everyone's purpose," said Dumas.
Trash collection was disrupted last week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Regular pickup will resume tomorrow, with those county residents whose trash was supposed to be collected on Thursday up first. Workers will use the rest of the week to catch up to the regular collection schedule.