Watershed Council meeting participants talk tough on illegal dumping

A tougher anti-littering law, vigorous enforcement and more availability of trash transfer stations emerged at a meeting Wednesday as suggestions for cracking down on the perennial illegal dumping problem in Mohave County.

Jace Zack, chief criminal deputy county attorney, announced during the two-hour round-table discussion of the Northwest Arizona Watershed Council Wednesday that he has drafted an ordinance to make it easier to prosecute litterbugs.

The county supervisors are expected to consider the ordinance next month.

The ordinance, if adopted, would hold a person responsible for littering on someone else's property even if another person littered the property.

Zack said the county currently follows a state law that requires proof that a person littered.

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

Convicted litterbugs currently face misdemeanor punishment of six months in jail, a $2,500 fine or both, according to Zack.

The culprit faces felony charges if he or she dumps more than 300 pounds or 100 cubic feet of trash illegally.

"In an criminal case (under state law), you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt," Zack told a gathering of about 30 people in the Kingman branch of the Mohave County Library.

"Whoever's trash it is (under the ordinance) is responsible for cleaning it up regardless if how it got there."

The proposed ordinance will make the job performed by "litter cop" volunteer Walter "Mac" McCarty more effective, Sheriff Tom Sheahan said.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office recruited the retired Marine during the spring and supplied him with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

McCarty lacks the power to cite illegal dumpers and litterbugs, but turns over evidence to Sgt.

Don Bischoff and other officers for prosecution, Sheahan said.

Sheahan said he plans to improve enforcement by gaining authorization to use $50,000 from county landfill surcharges to pay for a newer vehicle for McCarty, overtime, surveillance and use of aircraft, the pilot's time and aircraft fuel.

The county collects about $200,000 a year from the $2 surcharge on landfill tipping fees with the intent of using the money to combat illegal or wildcat dumping, Assistant Public Works Director Mike Hendrix has said.

One factor that makes it more difficult to eliminate illegal or wildcat dumping is the lack of transfer stations, some people in attendance said.

"That's the biggest thing people tell us," said John Ford, administrative assistant in the Dolan Springs office of District 2 County Supervisor Tom Sockwell.

The county's only transfer station is located in the Arizona Strip and operated by a Nevada company, Sheahan said.

One solution will require a change in state law to make trash pickup mandatory, County Supervisor Pete Byers said.

He said state law would need to be changed to allow the formation of improvement districts to pay for a dump station.

Trash pickup is optional in unincorporated areas of the county.

As Byers and others spoke at the meeting, Michael Forrest, executive director of the Lower Colorado River Conservation and Development Project in Parker, filled more than 15 pages of a flip chart.

He coordinates community development projects under a program funded by the U.S.

Department of Agriculture.

Forrest identified the numerous facets of the problem and wrote down solutions such as improved prosecution, periodic cleanup programs, better access to transfer stations and educational programs to discourage littering.

The meeting was productive, council Chairman Elno Roundy said afterward.

"We hope this meeting served to continue to keep this issue in the forefront of everybody's mind to keep the desert cleaned up," he said.