Supervisors approve anti-littering ordinance

The Mohave County supervisors took a step toward cracking down on illegal or "wildcat" dumping Monday by passing an ordinance designed to make it easier to pursue violators.

The board majority of Pete Byers and Tom Sockwell voted for the ordinance while acknowledging that it is not as tough as they wanted it to be.

The ordinance goes into effect in five weeks.

"I think there are some holes in this ordinance," Sockwell said.

"I think we are going to have to start some place."

Supervisor Buster Johnson voted against the ordinance, contending enforcement could violate due process rights of people who pay others to haul their trash to the county landfill.

He referred to a provision in the one-page ordinance that would hold the residents accountable if items such as envelopes containing their identities are detected at an illegal dumpsite.

Several people in the audience hailed the ordinance as a flawed but first step on cracking down on a problem that has been festering in the county for years.

However, others said it would be unfair to residents in unincorporated areas who pay haulers to remove their trash because they cannot afford trash collection.

The ordinance makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor if the violator does not remove trash found on someone else's property within five days after being notified by first-class mail by a law enforcement officer, public health official or the property owner.

Violators would face the maximum punishment under existing state law for the misdemeanor offense of littering: up to a $2,500 fine, six months in jail or both.

"It's just a tool," Chief Criminal County Attorney Jace Zack said after the meeting.

"It's not going to solve the problem by itself.

It is only a smaller part of a bigger picture" that would include an educational campaign.

Zack faced numerous detractors during the board meeting.

Walter "Mac" McCarty, who has served as the volunteer "trash cop" for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office since the spring, said he feared the ordinance could face a legal challenge.

He called for an alternative punishment of requiring violators to perform 48 hours of community service picking up trash.

Zack responded, "I think this will accomplish what Mac wants to accomplish.

Judges do order community service."

Johnson expressed concerns about rights being violated.

"If someone's business card is found, they are guilty," he said.

Responding to a question from Sockwell, Zack said a person could be held liable if trash identifying that person shows up in an illegal dump even if he or she has a receipt from a private hauler.

Byers said, "We still have to do something about wildcat dumping."

He added county officials may not put trash containers in front of homes in unincorporated areas without first changing a state law to allow the formation of an improvement district to provide garbage service.

Byers motioned to approve the ordinance.

He drew support from Elno Roundy, who heads the Northwest Arizona Watershed Council, and others who attend the nonprofit group's monthly meetings.

"We think it is one more step in the right direction," Roundy said.

However, the Rev.

C.

Carl Clouseau, who lives on Thompson Avenue north of Kingman, said his options are limited.

He said he hires a private operator to haul his trash every five weeks because he cannot afford Waste Management, which charges $17.40 a month for once-a-week trash pickup.

"I'm disabled," Clouseau said.

"There are disabled people in the county who have nowhere else to turn.

People who are disabled don't have a lot of money to play with."