Jun. 11—PERU — Miami County is set to launch a new program to clean up illegal dumping and issue steep fines to those caught doing it after officials say the problem has substantially increased over the last two years.
Janice Hughes, bookkeeper for the County Highway Department, said illegal dumping has always been an issue in Miami County, but the incidents of it happening have been on the rise for some time.
"I've worked here for 14 years, and I've seen the problem grow," she said. "There's always been a problem, but to me it seems to really have accelerated."
That includes people dumping mattresses, tires, couches, trash and other household items into ditches, in front of residents' homes and into area waterways.
"We've seen people toss stuff right over bridges into the creeks and not think a thing about it," she said.
Highway Department Superintendent Kerry Worl said the problem seems to be getting worse by the day.
"Over the past couple years, it's gotten pretty bad," he said. "There's a lot more mattresses and chairs. They'll throw anything out now. Shingles, boards, you name it. It's getting a lot worse every day."
Now, county commissioners have thrown their support behind a new ordinance that would issue steep fines to anyone caught doing it.
For the first offense, a fine could be issued up to $500, or more if the dumping is excessive. A second offense would bring a fine up to $1,000, and a third, up to $2,500.
Worl said the ordinance gives the Sheriff's Office the teeth to enforce the rules and issue the fines.
"This gets something in place to make the fines stick a little bit more," he said. "Hopefully it will work."
He said the best way to stop illegal dumping is for residents to report it when they see it and take a picture of violator's vehicle or license plate so they can follow up on it.
The Highway Department is also requesting extra funding to purchase a new skid steer for $71,000 and a dump trailer for $12,000, in addition to about $20,000 for overtime wages for workers to clean up illegal dumping. The annual operating cost of the program would be just under $20,000.
Worl said that, in the past, the county didn't pick up the trash because it didn't have the proper equipment to do it safely. The new equipment would allow workers to clean up the garbage without touching it, he said.
The county said it will try the new dumping program for one year and see how it goes, and then decide whether to continue it.
Hughes said anyone thinking about illegally dumping garbage should know the county has a convenient solid waste program where residents can dispose of recyclable trash. The City of Peru also takes some items for a nominal fee.
The Miami County Council is set to vote during its regular meeting this month on whether to fund the new program.
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @carsongerber1.