Litter pickup

Aiken County Council has begun discussing bringing back the county's litter task force, a group formed in 2015 to help combat the area's pervasive litter problem.

At its regular meeting Tuesday night, Council OK'd a proposed resolution to accept $2,000 in grant funds from Palmetto Pride for equipment and training for the Litter Enforcement Program.

Paige Bayne, director of Aiken County Code Enforcement, said the county applies for the grant funding annually for equipment and graciously accepts this year's award amount.

The agenda item, however, prompted council members during committee to voice concerns and also offer up ideas for addressing litter, which they say lines many roadways in the county.

Bayne said using community service workers is working well in the county's "hot-spot areas," which are near its drop-off centers.

During a recent county budget planning retreat this month, Bayne said since the loss of inmate labor from the Lower Savannah Pre-Release Center, the county has worked with Palmetto Pride, joining several counties that have implemented community service workers.

She said officials worked with IT to locate "hot zones" in Aiken County and "it pretty much goes along the drop-off centers in Aiken County.

"The way we came up with that is that a lot of the trash that you see are on those roads that the drop-off facilities are on and we put those workers out there."

Workers who have hours are given a road that is "completely littered" with the trash and are given, for example, 20 hours to do a minimum of four miles on both sides of the road picking it up, she said.

"We're doing five hours per mile on both sides and like I said that's not just a hit-or-miss. That is picking up 30 and 40 bags of trash in that hot zone that we’ve kind of pin-pointed out," Bayne added.

Total bags picked up since this was implemented in August is 294, she said. The county is mainly working with the solicitor’s office right now, according to the official, but is trying to get magistrates on board with community service.

The total warnings for litter issued last year was 75 and the total tickets issued was 230, she said. Council members have been tossing around ideas to deter people from littering.

County Councilman Andrew Siders said a regular community cleanup each year could be the answer. Councilman Willar Hightower mentioned playing his part in the litter task force he said former Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie once headed up. 

According to previous Aiken Standard reports, seven residents were put on the task force to serve a four-year term and meet at least quarterly.

Bayne said the committee has been behind many good ideas and she hopes to start it back up following the resignation of former County Assistant Administrator Andy Merriman, who left late last year for a position in York County.

County Administrator Clay Killian announced Tuesday a new assistant administrator has been hired to fill Merriman's position. 

Ashley Jacobs, who most recently served as executive director of the Greater Lake City Community Development Office/Lake City Creative Alliance in Lake City, has accepted the position and started on Friday.

In other business, Augusta Sports Council CEO Stacie Adkins spoke with council about the Ironman 70.3 Augusta, a triathlon with a bike portion that travels through Aiken County.

Before retiring her seat on council, McKenzie expressed concern about Aiken County residents being inconvenienced by road closures and the county not economically benefiting as much as Augusta.

Adkins said organizers want to work with the county, and the sports council helps host other events in the county, including Peach Jam and the previous rowing events at Langley Pond.

Assistant Administrator Brian Sanders has recommended Adkins collaborate directly with the county's tourism department. 

Christina Cleveland is the county government reporter at the Aiken Standard.

Christina Cleveland is a reporter with the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since October 2015. A native of Seneca, South Carolina, she holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.