ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners discussed a rising issue of trash in their February meeting after County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said he had been getting a large increase in calls about the issue in recent time.
While the commissioners discussed possible county solutions, they noted that Keep Gilmer Beautiful works hard on the projects and attempts to help the county. However, Paris stated that the board needed a county response to the problem.
The main solution discussed by the board includes adding four seasonal employees for trash pickup to walk the roads before mowing crews in attempt to clean the trash before it hits the blades of mower. The litter would be picked up and deposited in bags on the side of the road before a vehicle follows after to collect all of the bags.
Going ahead of the mowers, in effect, sets a schedule and path for those employees to follow with a need to stay ahead of mowing crews. Additionally, having the seasonal status aids the county in terms of no benefits package or similar requirements.
Keep Gilmer Beautiful already collects litter on 44 adopted sections of road in the county where they collect litter four times a year. Public Works Director Jim Smith stated these employees would not have to do those roads where Keep Gilmer Beautiful has collected recently. Paris asserted this service was to help the situation above and in addition to what their organization accomplishes.
While the additional employees were discussed, and approved, as a first step, all three commissioners agreed this would not be enough and want to continue looking at opportunities to change the “culture” in the county to make it so that both those who live here as well as visiting tourists avoid throwing trash on the roads.
These four additional employees are set to be a trial basis this year and was roughly estimated during the meeting to cost the county $45,000.
While discussion included possibilities of increased litter fines and additional education, continued research will be required to see what the commissioners are able and allowed to do.
In their regular meeting, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller said, “It’s a behavioral, cultural attitude that our public seems to take these days that they didn’t use to.” Reiterating the need for more than just additional employees was only one part of the issue.
Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch held issue with already considering unbudgeted changes in February after going through the long budget process and having to cut departments severely so recently.
His note tied into another issue related to the trash. In the past, a large portion of litter pickup was handled through community service, a trend that has changed, according to Paris, with changes in probation for crimes. While the commissioners are considering the budget change for litter, they are also considering a budget change for the Probation Office, located in Pickens, and Gilmer’s share of funding that.
Responding to the calls of the citizens to deal with the trash on roads, Paris stated he wanted the people to know the board is responsive to their calls for support.
One final comment from Miller came noting, “I want our citizens to know that we need their help.”