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County commits to clean-up efforts

Volunteers team up with nonprofit TheirPlanet to clean along Goose Creek in Mountain City. Nine volunteers picked up 11 bags of garbage in the area on Sunday, March 21. Individuals and local businesses donated equipment such as gloves and trash bags to help the clean-up become a reality. Submitted photo.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Following a Solid Waste Committee meeting with County Mayor Mike Taylor and assorted officials last week, and to help combat its littering issue, Johnson County promises to put the community’s thoughts and the county’s new ideas to use.
Many around Johnson County have been discussing the blight and litter problem that seems to have increased within the last few months. Small groups and individuals have been taking it upon themselves to do mini clean-ups but express frustration when the areas are covered in litter almost as soon as they are cleaned.

“I think we had a pretty productive meeting,” said Taylor. “It was clearly established that we have a litter issue in our community.”

The first step was officially approving a countywide clean-up day. Several groups, including the Trade Volunteer Fire Department, chose this particular date, April 10, for individual litter pick-ups. During the March County Commission meeting, present commissioners made the countywide clean-up official. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department will supply fluorescent safety vests, gloves, and trash pickers for around 145 people.

As both officials and community members mentioned, doing clean-ups only deals with the matter’s effect, not the cause. As of this article’s writing, the county has two actions in the works and another planned for the future. 

The first action revolves around an issue that Commissioner Jerry Grindstaff reached out to The Tomahawk about, trash hauling. Within the last few years, there have been a lot of complaints about improper trash hauling. Trucks doing so reportedly overfilled the beds and did not use tarps, as rules require, to contain the contents. When the local transfer station stopped taking untarped vehicles, locals report these drivers would go untarped until about a block before the destination then pull over to tarp vehicles to seem to meet regulations. Officials decided to write letters asking for better follow-through and to be tougher with ticketing.

Grindstaff offered a solution to use unneeded county property towards the solution. The Johnson County Senior Center’s old 2006 Ford E-350 was proposed to be sold as surplus. Instead, the county will use it for additional litter patrol. It turns out that Litter Officer Sandy Hammons was out of commission from July until a few weeks ago because of personal injuries, including a broken ankle and a “messed up” knee. The state-approved utilizing funds saved during her absence to hire a certified officer to help through June.

In the future, Taylor plans to implement litter education in local schools. Current issues related to COVID-19 make that type of activity difficult, but Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox agreed to partner with the county later on, most likely next school year. The county is also looking into incentives provided through the Tennessee Clean Act.

Find out more about Johnson County and upcoming activities at johnsoncountytn.gov. See incentives and other information on the Tennessee Clean Act at tennesseecleanact.org.