The days of too much talk and not enough action may be over when it comes to illegal trash dumping in the city. People may soon be able to earn cash rewards for ratting out dumpers, similar to Crime Stoppers. 

The landscape for catching dumpers appeared to change significantly during a virtual workshop Friday with city commissioners and a variety of department heads.

Commissioner Phillip Walker, who has pushed for a crackdown to control illegal dumping, was ecstatic with Friday’s plans. “I’m very excited at this point,” Walker said. “I’m almost ready to jump out of my chair!”

The changes city officials say they will implement are:

Reward money for turning in an illegal dumper. This could involve something like taking a photo of a violator’s license plate and quickly texting it to police. The city has $25,000 available to pay rewards but doesn’t expect it to happen very often.

Trimming the number of days a code violator has to remove a pile of debris from 15 to probably seven. This is critical to the effort because the longer a pile sits, the more company it gets, said Brian Rewis, assistant director of community and economic development. But to make this change commissioners will have to formally alter the rules.

Six commissioners gave the thumbs up that they would do so. Commissioner Scott Franklin, toward the end of his campaign for a seat in Congress, was absent.

Better searching capacity on the city’s computers. Rewis said workers can now search for illegal dumping incidents, but not enough of the specifics. He said it will take at least six months for the new data to accumulate and be used efficiently. “You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said.

 Use surveillance cameras more often. Stiffen up signage near problem areas with warnings such as  “under surveillance.” Do a widespread public awareness campaign.

Activate a dedicated phone line for people to report illegal dumping. The number 834-DUMP will be activated next week, city spokesman Kevin Cook said.

Rewis said the dumping problem in the city is widespread but isn’t yet epidemic. He told commissioners the city will fight dumping “with as many tools as you allow us.”

Gene Ginn, manager of solid waste, said putting a Dumpster in areas with lots of illegal dumping isn’t a good idea.

“It would be unmanageable unless you tend to it every day,” Ginn  said.

If people don’t think  the dumping problem is serious, Walker said, “come live in my world.” 

Rewis said Friday the city did not follow through with plans unveiled in late February to combat dumping because of coronavirus. The unveiling of the plans was weeks before public gatherings, including code enforcement board meetings, were limited by coronavirus rules.

But good things will happen now, Walker said. “I believe we’ll see some change.”

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