Citywide trash epidemic is no man’s treasure

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ALBANY — Dennis Goodman lost the use of his legs in a car accident 34 years ago. But people living along 12th Avenue in Albany will have a tough time finding a neighbor who does a better job of keeping his lawn and property in apple-pie order.

So when Goodman, who happened to be looking out his window at an opportune moment, saw a passenger drop a bag of trash into the ditch in front of the home he inherited from his parents, he rolled — in his wheelchair — into action.

“I looked out the window and saw a young lady holding a brown paper bag outside the window of a silver car,” Goodman said Thursday at a city of Albany “Operation Clean Sweep” gathering on Avalon Street. “No matter how much I work to keep my yard clean, the ditch is usually filled with beer cans and bottles, fast-food wrappers and other trash. I watched her let the trash flow out of that brown bag into my yard, and I put on a pair of gloves and went outside.”

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Goodman cleaned up the trash that had been deposited on his property and started looking it over. In it he found what he said was a $150 receipt from a nail salon with a name on the receipt. He came to the Clean Sweep gathering Thursday to deliver the evidence he’d collected to Code Enforcement officers who were part of the ongoing citywide beautification project that local officials have undertaken.

“The next step actually just happened,” long-time Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful Director Judy Bowles said. “Once Code Enforcement gets the information (on the receipt), they contact the person and investigate. After that, there is the possibility of a citation, a court date and a fine of up to $1,000. The person, if found to be the one who threw out the trash, could be sentenced to picking up trash or, if they’re a repeat offender, could do jail time.”

Ward III Commissioner B.J. Fletcher, in whose ward Thursday’s Operation Clean Sweep clean-up was being conducted, said the responsibility of stopping the excessive litter problem that plagues the city now lies with the court system.

“It’s in the hands of the judges,” Fletcher said. “If somebody goes to the trouble of collecting evidence and then bringing it forward, and the judges slap them on the wrist or make the least rulings, then people are going to keep on doing what they’ve always done, and that’s throwing their trash out onto other people’s property.

“The city’s various departments are working together to try and restore some pride in our city, but it’s up to the judges to give some teeth to our laws.”

City Public Works Director Stacey Rowe said the city’s efforts to attack the litter problem with a ward-by-ward, zone-by-zone approach has paid some dividends as far as getting buy-in from the neighborhoods that the city is working to clean up, with the help of local businesses Concrete Enterprises and LRL Ventures.

“We started with Ward VI, and we’ve done work in Wards I and II,” Rowe said. “What we try to do is pick zones in the wards that we can clean in one day. And this is amazing: We usually end up picking up between a ton and two tons of litter each day that we do this.

“We have gotten some calls from some citizens thanking us, and we see some of them working to keep their neighborhoods clean after we leave. The only way we’ll see continued improvement is if the citizens work with us.”

Clint Eudy with Concrete Enterprises said the company wants to be seen as a “good citizen” in the community.

“We want to do our part as a company,” Eudy said. “And I, personally, have lived in Albany/Lee County all my life, and I want to do all I can to improve our community.”

LaSonja Bentley, a partner in the LRL Ventures facilities maintenance business, said the company sets aside four hours or so on Thursdays to do volunteer work that helps with Operation Clean Sweep.

“Our goal is to volunteer enough time to make a difference in our community,” Bentley, who was at Thursday’s cleanup gathering with her daughter, Illissa Bentley, who also works with LRL, said. “We also have volunteers who pick up litter on the Liberty Expressway from the Dawson Road interchange almost to Miller Brewing. Having a nicer looking community is a win-win for us all.”

A citizen who lives on Avalon Avenue said Thursday she was pleasantly surprised — and appreciative of — the quick response to a concern she had in the neighborhood.

“I called Commissioner Fletcher, and she got right on it,” Monica McPherson said. “As soon as I hung up the phone with her, someone (from Public Works) came up to my house to talk with me. We have potholes in the alley behind my house, and when it rains like it did the last couple of days, the water builds up.

“(Public Works) came in and drained the water and (Rowe) said they plan to fill in the potholes. I really appreciate what the city is doing. That will help keep our neighborhoods safe for the kids.”

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