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Public hearings set for litter control, fire fees issues

August 05, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Two public hearings have been scheduled by the Berkeley County Commission on Aug. 25 to receive comment on proposals to adopt a litter control ordinance and to change the penalty schedule for nonpayment of fire fees.

The hearings will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the county commission meeting room on the second floor of the county administration building at 400 W. Stephen St.

The fire fee ordinance amendments propose that a 10 percent penalty currently applied after the fee's due date be eliminated and replaced with stiffer, incremental penalties.

The change would not go into effect until next year. The new payment/penalty schedule would be similar with what the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority' already has adopted, Fire Board chairman Gregory S. "Greg" Rhoe said.

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A draft of the litter ordinance to "provide for a clean and safe county" outlines a process for the county to address "unsafe and unsightly structures and land ... open dumps, unlawful disposal of litter and failure to provide proof of proper disposal of solid waste." There is currently no litter control ordinance in Berkeley County.

Counties have been under mandate to adhere to a three-year cleanup initiative launched by Gov. Joe Manchin, and counties had until this year to implement at least 12 of 16 measures in the Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan, The Associated Press reported this week.

The measures focused on improving law enforcement, cleanup efforts and outreach and public education. Manchin said Monday that every county has met the goal, according to the AP.

The local measures include forming task forces, hiring litter control officers and adopting ordinances to deal with junked vehicles and dilapidated housing.

A draft of Berkeley County's ordinance, which is expected to be discussed during next Thursday's meeting, authorizes county-employed litter control officers to issue citations for things like open dumps, unlawful litter disposal.

It also proposes the establishment of a Safe and Clean County Enforcement Agency comprised of county health and engineering officials, a fire company chief, litter control officer and members of the community. The county sheriff would serve as an ex-officio member.

In an opening statement, the proposed ordinance cites three sections of state code that empower the regulation's adoption and states; "The members of the Berkeley County Commission, believe the residents of this County should have the opportunity to enjoy the County's beauty to its utmost; should have sufficient and effective regulatory tools with which to fight litter, the accumulation of unsightly debris and refuse, the proliferation of overgrown vegetation and toxic spillage or seepage; should have efficient and effective ways to control unsafe, hazardous, dilapidated structures; and, should have laws which, generally, promote the public welfare and safety of the people of Berkeley County."

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