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The St. Francois County Commission learned that there has been a problem regarding trash accumulating along county roads.

Highway Superintendent Clay Copeland discussed the ongoing issue of littering and large items discarded along the roads and how the highway department deals with the problem during the commission's weekly meeting held Tuesday morning in the courthouse annex.

“There is a huge problem throughout the county of trash being scattered,” he said. “We do not have a dedicated crew or procedure for picking up scattered trash. However, we have an adopt-a-road program and through the commission and volunteers that do that.

"They will bag the trash up and we will pick the bags up. We also pick up large items such as a couch or a TV. We are in the process, on the waiting list to start with the Bonne Terre prison, to have an inmate crew to come and do that.”

Copeland also updated the commission on a trash dumping incident from the previous day that took place on Hamilton Town Road in Doe Run.

“A pothole crew in a remote area witnessed an individual from a trash hauling company that had just backed up to our county roads, raised the bed and dumped the trash right onto the county road,” he said. “[The crew] witnessed this happening.

"The driver fled, and we promptly called the sheriff’s department. This individual in the company truck fled [in the truck], then eventually parked his truck and fled into the woods. We did not catch the individual that has done this, but we do have the company truck and it has since been impounded.”

According to Copeland, the highway department was forced to divert from its normal work schedule in order to clean up the scene.

“We have a crew out there today, picking this up,” he said. “We have already hauled two dump truck loads off and probably have two to three more to clean this mess up. We want to pick this up, because it will attract other people to want to dump to it.”

Commissioner Gay Wilkinson interjected, “Did you say that it looked like it had been dumped there before, not just this time?”

“There was more than just one load there, dumped over a period of 24 hours,” Copeland said. “It was a company going around charging people to pick their trash and was dumping on the road instead of taking to the landfill. We are cleaning it up today and we will have a detailed report on what it cost us to pull us away from our other jobs today, fuel, manpower and disposal fee. It's just another instance where trash on the county roads have been a problem. We are inundated with calls [from people] that there is trash on their road.”

Aside from the cleanup, Copeland explained that the matter has been turned over to law enforcement for any further actions.

“I want to commend the sheriff’s department," he said. "They responded right away. I don’t know if this is something that’s going to continue. We have been in contact with the prosecutor’s office and they are going to pursue legal matters.”

County Clerk Kevin Engler commented on the ongoing nature of the problem and the high costs involved with cleanup efforts statewide.

“I made this a huge issue a decade ago," he said. "We spent $47 million annually — the counties and state — picking up trash. Money we could spend on bridge repairs. The prosecutors in the past let them off, saying go pick it up. We have to hit somebody hard sometime when they do something like this.”

Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher observed that the changing conditions of trash disposal in the area contributes to the problem.

“Last week we talked about the landfill and transfer station — how they had looked at raising the dumping fees there,” he said. “The more you raise those fees, the more of this you have.”

Also in the meeting, Engler addressed the upcoming election and the online availability of the ballot for voters.

“All the sample ballots are available now on our website,” he said. “We have 37 different ballots.”

Deputy Clerk Amanda Henderson interjected, “The one online is just our publication, so that all races are combined.”

Engler continued, “So it combines everything that could possibly be on the ballot depending on where you live. It has the ballot language for the schools, the cities, everything that’s on the ballot April 2 is now online, so you can go look at it.”

Finally, Gallaher provided an update on the contract and work schedule regarding the upcoming replacement of the St. Francois County Courthouse elevator.

“Last week we announced that we had been working on a penalty clause for the elevator,” he said. “That has been signed and approved. There will be a $500 per business day penalty if they are late after a four-week scheduled time. [The replacement] is scheduled to begin on May 13 and will continue up to four weeks.”

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Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at mmarberry@farmingtonpressonline.com.

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