Hidden Cleveland

Litter program keeping county landscape clean

By BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
Posted 9/1/16

293,015.

That is the number of pounds of litter picked up by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office’s litter detail from June 2015 to June 2016.

It has been a constant job keeping Bradley …

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Hidden Cleveland

Litter program keeping county landscape clean

Inmates from the Bradley County Justice Center pick up litter along APD 40.
Inmates from the Bradley County Justice Center pick up litter along APD 40.
Banner photo, BRIAN GRAVES
Posted

293,015.

That is the number of pounds of litter picked up by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office’s litter detail from June 2015 to June 2016.

It has been a constant job keeping Bradley County beautiful since the BCSO was given that responsibility by the Bradley County Commission after it allowed the department to administer the state’s litter grant.

The hope is it is not just the county’s landscapes which are cleaned, but lives as well.

BCSO Environmental Officer Tim Mason oversees the litter work which is a continuous process, as his desk calendar shows.

Every day, there are three and four locations which will receive the focus of inmates who are allowed to clean the county’s roadsides and vacant properties.

Mason said Sheriff Eric Watson asked him to take the environmental position two years ago adding very few would have ever imagined the BCSO having a litter crew.

“I had been a patrolman and an a SRO and different areas around the department for 14 years,” Mason said. “I didn’t know anything about it and took over from where several other good officers had done this over the years.”

Mason said there have been more than 225 properties cleaned within the last 24 months.

“We average 10 to 12 properties a month,” he said.

Mason said the ability to educate citizens about litter is one of the more important roles he plays.

“I feel like we can educate folks,” he said. “Sometimes, we get calls from retired folks and I will ask them if they have ever talked to their neighbor, maybe they are having a bad time.”

He said he is always encouraging people to help their neighbors.

“The thing that I have always been known to do is if someone calls I always go out to that property, talk to that person and make sure that we can do something to help,” Mason said.

He said many of the abandoned properties “give the appearance they got a call from the bank and just left.”

Mason added attempting to find owners and financing agencies can delay the maintenence of such a property.

“I tell people all of the time the laws of justice never move fast,” he said. “People want things done today and it’s not going to happen that way. If I have to send a certified letter, then I have to send a citation.”

He said the environmental process has been helped by the Bradley County Keep America Beautiful organization, of which he is a member of the board of directors.

“When there is someone who is not able to clean their property — like an elderly person or disabled person — the sheriff is big on us trying to go in and help those folks,” Mason said.

He said there are local college students that also help as part of their studies or projects.

“Santek Waste Management and Cheryl Dunson have also been unbelievable,” he added.

The litter pick-up crew goes out most every day from 6:30 a.m. until around 4 p.m.

“TDOT works great with us,” Mason said. “They will contact me about certain places. We go in and clean up so that when they bring in their mowers and bush hogs, there is not a bigger mess to deal with.”

He said the county road department has also been “excellent to work with.”

Mason said one of the biggest concerns with which he has dealt with is the problem of dumped tires.

“I haven’t seen it in several weeks, but we got convictions on two or three cases and that seems to work — when word gets around we’re not going to put up with it,” he said.

He said Santek has been very helpful with those cases by letting the county dump the tires at no expense to the county.

“TDOT also comes in and backs a truck up and takes tires off at no extra cost to the taxpayers,” Mason said.

Mason also says he tries to respond when someone reports a dead animal.

“You don’t want kids and everybody driving by and seeing something like that,” he said.

Mason recalls taking over the litter grant last July.

“It is a $55,000 grant from TDOT,” he explained. “We cleaned more than 600 miles of county roads and 375 miles of state roads.”

“Mayor Roland is also on the KAB board of directors,” Mason said. “I told him if we finish one county road that runs into the city, we’re cleaning it. We’re all in this together. We’re a team.”

Mason said the process is also big on recycling.

“We recycle everything and I want to praise Keisler’s, who has left a dumpster here at the Justice Center for our use,” he said. “That’s free of charge and he comes and picks it up, weighs it, and sends a check to the BCSO. We use that money to buy drinks and things for the inmates who do help with the pickup.”

“The great thing about having our trustees do this is it keeps them operating on a pattern,” Mason said. “When they get out, they are going to want to keep getting up and doing something besides breaking and entering.”

He also stays in touch with those who are leaving there time in the jail.

“I had one young man who had got out and he was waiting on his mother to come and get him,” Mason recalled. “We had him the whole year on the litter crew. I gave him my card and cellphone number and told him to call me if he needs any help. If we can get these guys a job and keep them busy, they will have a chance when they get out.”

Mason said he has been able to get jobs for some of those who have worked with him on the litter pick up.

“You begin to see in them they do accept responsibility and are proud of a job well done,” he said. “The people I know also know I’m not going to recommend anyone I don’t believe will do the job.”

He also noted there are no outside companies employed to clean the Justice Center as well as other minor maintenance issues.

“Our work crew does that at no expense to taxpayers,” he said.

Anyone with environmental concerns may call Mason at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office at 423-728-7315.

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