Mohave County still struggling with anti-dumping changes

Supervisors wonder how much bite is in their proposed anti-littering ordinance

KINGMAN - The burden of proof in prosecuting people who illegally dump trash in Mohave County has supervisors wondering how much bite is in their proposed anti-littering ordinance that would remove a five-day discretionary cleanup period.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 Monday to send the proposed ordinance back to the County Attorney's Office to see about attaching a $500 fine to a state law for prosecuting illegal dumping.

The fine would pay for a $500 reward offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of those generating litter.

The revised ordinance presented to the board Monday did not include the five-day "cure" provision that allows offenders to clean up their mess and avoid prosecution.

People caught littering have no five-day grace period under state law, Mohave County Chief Deputy Attorney Jace Zack told the board at its regular meeting.

"If they're caught, they should be arrested and taken to jail," he said. "The county ordinance is to address the proof problem when nobody knows who put it there. Most litter in the desert is put there by the owner, but we can't prove it.

"The state law is the gun on our right hip, the county ordinance is the gun on our left hip, and we need them both," Zack said.

Supervisor Buster Johnson of Lake Havasu City said the only time the five-day grace period is used is when the dumpers are caught. Some of those people are contractors hired to haul away trash, he noted.

"We should be prosecuting those people, not giving them five days. I'm in favor of the ordinance," Johnson said.

The board directed county staff to examine the ordinance from the perspective of adding language for cases in which the county does not have sufficient evidence to prosecute litterbugs under state law.

Language would also be added to provide the $500 reward for confidential information leading to prosecution of litter offenders.

Supervisors Gary Watson and Jean Bishop want county staff to take a closer look at the ordinance.

"If the county attorney doesn't have evidence to prove who did it, I'd hate to see litter left in the desert because they're awaiting prosecution," Bishop said.

Todd Davidson, an officer with ERACE (Environmental Rural Area Cleanup Enforcement), said litterbugs cleaned up 21 tons of trash last year as a result of the five-day notice. He generally doesn't see repeat offenders because they've been held responsible for their actions, he said.

"If we did have repeat offenders, we'd have prosecutions, and we had zero prosecutions," Davidson said. "We may not have enough evidence for prosecution, but we do see the results of cleanup."

Johnson said he's seeing more trash being dumped in the desert. If the county could prosecute those people the first time and not give them a grace period for cleanup, it would make a bigger mark on those thinking about illegal dumping, he said.

"We're not against prosecution," Davidson responded. "We just don't want to prosecute if the evidence is not there."

In other action:

• The board voted 5-0 to establish fees related to services provided by the Mohave County Medical Examiner in accordance with state law. County Administrator Mike Hendrix said an independent auditor identified certain fees that were not approved by the board, while the rest of the fees are paid under the medical examiner's contract.

The board approved a $35 fee for cremation and $10 fee for autopsy reports beyond those provided at no charge to the immediate family.

• Board Chairman Steven Moss withdrew his motion directing the County Attorney's Office to work with Development Services in preparing an amendment to Land Division regulations requiring the showing of water adequacy for new developments.

His motion passed 4-1 at the March 16 board meeting, but a unanimous vote is required to change the ordinance. Moss said it was not his intent to task the County Attorney's Office and waste taxpayers' dollars on this issue.

• The board approved a consent agenda item for the development and designation of U.S. Bicycle Route 66 across the 48-mile Oatman Highway. The county will not be responsible for any cost or obligation for improvements necessary to meet minimum engineering and safety standards for the bikeway designation, Public Works Director Steve Latoski said.

The board wants the bike route to be formally reserved for future designation so that it can be mapped under the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) United States Bicycle Route System.