Jefferson County Enlists Zoning Officials in Battle Against ‘Poop Trains,’ Littering

Jefferson County County Attorney Theo Lawson (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The Jefferson County commissioners Thursday enlisted the aid of county personnel to fight illegal dumping, littering and violations involving “poop trains” in the county.

And those they enlisted are already on the frontlines.

“We designated the sanitation and ordinance inspectors, the zoning inspectors, the zoning supervisor and the zoning administrator as solid waste officers,” County Attorney Theo Lawson said. “By being designated as solid waste officers, that then gives them the authority under the code to write citations for criminal littering. Those folks are now able to enforce criminal littering through issuing citations. That should be a huge increase in our folks’ ability to enforce criminal littering.”

Previously, those inspectors had to go to the magistrate’s office to pursue a warrant.

“Now they can just go ahead and issue their own citations,” Lawson said. “There should be an increase in enforcement of littering, which has been a problem particularly with COVID stuff and people not wanting to pay the trash fee.”

The authority of solid waste officers extends to enforcing violations of county laws involving renewed efforts of companies in New York and New Jersey to send solid waste to Jefferson County via rail. So-called “poop trains” made a literal and figurative stink in 2017 as solid waste was brought into the area by rail.

World Games

The commission Thursday approved spending $2.5 million of American Rescue Plan Beneficiary Agreement funds on The World Games, which will begin July 7. Commissioner Joe Knight said that money was allotted because the pandemic caused a one-year delay in putting on the games.

Storm Shelters

Commissioners also took action to build storm shelters in Warrior, Bradford, Glenwood, Graysville and Bagley with general fund money.

“The storm shelters are on the fulfillment of promises the commission made back in 2011,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “We began building storm shelters through our CDBG funds, our federal grant process, and we built as many as we could. But this commission determined that through our general fund, we needed more storm shelters (for) more people in the community and that’s what is accomplished now.

“Every area in the county where a need is determined, we intend to put your taxpayer dollars to those storm shelters to help protect you and protect the people of Jefferson County,” Stephens said.

Zoning and Bingo

Commissioners heard three zoning cases, including a request to rezone property in Eastern Valley for a general store. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the action with restrictions, including that the property could be used only as a retail store.

An attorney for the owner asked for that restriction to be dropped. The Rev. Jason Leight of Eastern Valley Baptist Church said that is the latest effort to bring bingo into that community.

“In the last year and a half, we’ve had three 24-7 adult entertainment establishments open up on Easter Valley Road within a mile of each other, running right through the heart of the Easter Valley, our residential community,” he said. “These establishments have caused an increase in crime, an increase in insurance rates (and) a decrease in property value. If planning and zoning laws exist at all, they should exist and be administered for the protection of community and standards.”

Commissioner Joe Knight said companies such as this landowner “come under the guise of an LLC with some initials and we issue a license and the next thing we know we’ve got bingo right in the middle of a residence.”

While municipalities such as Brighton, Fairfield and Lipscomb have approved bingo, Lawson said bingo is illegal in unincorporated Jefferson County.

Also read: JeffCo Commissioners Discuss Laws to Stop “Poop Trains” From Hauling Waste Into the County