AMHERST - If first impressions are lasting ones, Jimmy Ayers is concerned about the image his native Amherst County is putting out with the constant presence of trash on the roadways.
“It’s nasty. It’s just trash everywhere,” Ayers, of the Amherst County Board of Supervisors, said during the board’s Feb. 4 meeting, speaking about heavy amounts of litter he has noticed on U.S. 29 Business in Madison Heights near the Lynchburg border and other areas. “It’s about as bad as I’ve ever seen it. It’s terrible.”
Ayers said the look is not inviting to visitors and prospective businesses and the county needs a plan to get those corridors cleaned up.
“We’re only as professional as our presentation,” said Ayers. “If we present ourselves as slobs, we’re going to be perceived as slobs.”
During the meeting, Ayers inquired about getting a committee together to organize cleanup efforts that go beyond one day a year. He said based on feedback he’s received he believes it would get some participation.
Supervisor Tom Martin said with limited resources it will take a public relations campaign and various groups working to tackle the issue head on.
“Absolutely that is the image we are projecting,” Martin said of the trash problem. “Businesses see that.”
Supervisor David Pugh said residents littering is a concern and he’d be willing to volunteer his time to clean up trash. He suggested the board joining to do so could send a message to the community. Martin said another contributing factor is trash coming off the back of pickup trucks.
“We’re trying to create this atmosphere of the ‘perfect slice of Virginia,’” Martin said, referring to the county’s logo. “Nobody wants trash on their pie.”
Ayers said getting a committee together at least shows an initiative and cleaning up the roadways must be a community effort.
County Administrator Dean Rodgers said various department heads, the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office and the Amherst Commonwealth Attorney’s Office recently held a meeting on the trash issue. The sheriff’s office is prosecuting seven litter criminal cases and last summer the county revised an ordinance to make it easier to prosecute such cases, according to Rodgers.
The county also is in talks with the Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority to get more inmates on the roadways picking up trash, a task force is working on a plan and he’s also spoken with Amherst County Public Schools’ Superintendent Rob Arnold about getting youth involved.
“We’re not sitting on our hands,” Rodgers said of various angles of addressing the littering. “We’re calling it a war on trash.”
Ayers, who served 20 years as Amherst County’s sheriff prior to becoming a supervisor in 2016, said residents who observe littering from a vehicle need to have a way to identify the person who committed the act in reporting such incidents to law enforcement. He said a person with trash falling off their vehicle could be charged with failing to secure the load.
Sheriff E.W. Viar said by phone litter is a major issue in the county and the inmate workforce does what it can but there’s no way to cover the county’s entire 500 square miles. “This is a community problem,” he said of the need for citizens to get more involved with cleanup and prevention efforts.
He urged residents to be watchful of trash coming off their vehicles.
“The law says you’ve got to secure the load on your truck,” Viar said.
“The message we want to put out is if you dump trash, you’re going to get caught, you’re going to get prosecuted,” Rodgers said.
In other news:
Supervisors discussed getting bids to pave the Dodd’s Store solid waste convenience center, which opened on U.S. 60 West in late 2019. Ayers said the new trash disposal site is heavily used and maintaining the
- gravel will be a constant nightmare with heavy traffic, especially in rainy periods. Rodgers said paving is estimated to cost about $150,000 and it wasn’t in the new site’s scope of work because the expenses with the project, including some unforeseen issues, tallied in excess of $700,000.
- The board approved an increase in pay for the Amherst County Economic Development Authority’s board from $50 per month to $100. Tucker thanked the seven-member board for its work.
- While convening in their capacity as the Amherst County Service Authority’s board, supervisors changed the ACSA’s monthly meeting time from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The ACSA board, which oversees public water and sewer operations in the county, meets prior to the board of supervisors’ first Tuesday meeting of the month. In January, supervisors changed their first meeting of the month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.