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Grant's aim is not to penalize motorists
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Editor, As the vice chairman for the Keep Liberty Beautiful Advisory Council I felt it important, on behalf of our advisory board, to clarify the article that appeared in the Jan. 11 editon of the Coastal Courier entitled “Commission split on anti-litter challenge.”
As a reader of the newspaper, I understood from the article that not only were two commissioners not in favor of accepting $26,625 in state funds to provide for an anti-litter campaign, but also that said campaign would include penalizing motorists.
I think that this conclusion is not an accurate portrayal of what the grant and the Department of Community Affairs for our state intended. For a more accurate account to be given of the significance of acquiring these funds the reader must first understand that in 2003 the Georgia Department of Transportation spent $17 million to pick up roadside litter and those costs continue to rise at the cost of about $2 million per year. That $17 million is to clean the 18,000 center-lane, state route miles and 5,000 interstate shoulder miles and no other locations. In Liberty County, as part of a litter index, Keep Liberty Beautiful estimates that over 60 percent of the roadside litter is due to unsecured loads. According to the state, litter also hurts Georgia’s No. 2 industry, tourism, which brings in $16.2 billion to our state annually.
The important thing that was not addressed in the article was that neither the commission, nor Keep Liberty Beautiful, was talking about creating new laws or ordinances in Liberty County. Rather the discussion was of enforcing current state laws that say careless drivers could wind up picking up their own litter and/or fined as under the Georgia Litter Law (40-6-248) anything leaving a vehicle, intentional or not, is litter and can result in a citation. An officer can even impound the vehicle if the item(s) leaving the vehicle exceed 10 pounds or 15 cubic feet and the driver can be fined up to $5,000 or spend up to 12 months in jail. If these numbers do not say that the state is serious about litter and the fact that it costs us, the taxpayer’s money, I am really not sure what else would.
While many people think that the trash on our roads is not their fault, but rather that of commerical and long haul vehicles, that is just not true. Those who actually work in the litter industry say that weekend warriors, especially those cleaning out their homes or hauling home remodeling debris share the responsibility. In Liberty County we see a preponderance of dog food bags, fast food debris, beer bottles and soda cans/bottles. While the point that was raised by one of our commissioners about those in the unincorporated areas having to take their own trash to convenience centers was valid, it is the responsibility of the hauler, as a citizen of our state, to realize that it is his or her own responsibility to obey the law with or without a tarp. For one, as a citizen of an unincorporated area in Liberty County, my husband takes our trash to the Gum Branch convenience center without a tarp. However, he is always very careful to tie the trash bags closed and throw a brick on top of them to ensure that they do not blow out on the way.
Another important thing to realize is that while enforcing the current laws is important for both the continued clean-up efforts in our community and to uphold a state mandate, the anti-litter challenge grant, as it is called in the article, is really more of an education and awareness campaign for our community than it is an attempt to paint targets on local motorists. It is the hope of Keep Liberty Beautiful and the advisory board, that if educated about the litter laws and the negative effects of litter, that people will be more inclined to obey the law and keep unsightly debris off of the roadways. In a litter survey conducted last year by Keep Liberty Beautiful of 400 random citizens in our County, over 80 percent of them felt that if caught, a person who littered should be fined and/or made to pick up the litter.
In 2008, the Keep Liberty Beautiful program was recognized with a first place national award for litter prevention and eradication. This very prestigious honor was designated by Keep America Beautiful, an organization with 1,000 affiliates nationwide, and out of those 1,000 affiliates the campaign designed by Keep Liberty Beautiful was recognized as the best in the entire nation. Again, an inarguable and concrete fact that shows that Keep Liberty Beautiful is a program of great worth to our community that creates a tremendous amount of potential for our community’s economy, tourism and ecology. To get involved contact program Director, Sara Swida, by calling 368-4888.

Leah Poole
Gum Branch
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