YOUNGSTOWN Officers aim to clean up city -- literally
Organizers hope to continue the program through next year.
By PAUL WHEATLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- People illegally dumping trash in the city's streets and rural sections should know that two Mahoning County deputy sheriffs are waiting for them.
Bob Conway and Rob Lunsford are working with the city to wage a high-tech war against littering.
They can be out night or day, weekdays or weekends, patrolling more than 100 illegal dump sites across the city.
And they're not just tracking the casual litterbug. They want to catch people dumping tires, construction debris and even whole living-room sets -- which costs the city more than $100,000 annually to clean up.
Widespread problem: Mass littering is so prevalent in some city sections that "you'll see some streets in the city that don't even seem like streets," said Lunsford.
A Vindicator reporter tagged along with the deputies last week to see them at work.
Around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Lunsford and Conway came across a 6-foot-tall mound of clothes, furniture, household supplies and hundreds of tires -- the dumper actually took time to stack them -- in a vacant area near Nelson Avenue and Melvina Street on the city's East Side.
"That's fresh today," Conway said.
The area is about 100 yards away from a "No Dumping" sign.
Secured grant: Calvin Jones, director of the city's litter control and recycling department, secured a $47,000 Community Development Block Grant for the deputy's salaries and equipment, such as nighttime video cameras.
Jones said he applied for the grant because there was not enough manpower to enforce dumping and littering laws. He hopes to renew the grant and keep the program running next year.
Lunsford and Conway will issue citations for everything from casual littering and unsecured loads of trash to unlicensed haulers, the main contributors to the problem, Jones said.
"These are the people that pick up trash or refuse for a fee and they don't dispose of it at the proper sites," Jones said. "We'd clean up a dump site, and it'd be dumped on again in a week or so."
Citations for unlicensed haulers also can result in jail time.
Health hazards, too: Conway said dump sites are also health hazards.
"Tires are good breeding grounds for mosquitoes, rats and mice," said Lunsford, who already has discovered some unusual things in four weeks of patrols.
"I came across five gallon pails of restaurant grease," he said.
"Rat haven," Conway added.
Sheriff Randall Wellington believes the focused effort and coordination with the city's municipal court will make a difference in the fight to curb illegal dumping.