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Berkeley County Council debates litter job

August 15, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Council voted Thursday to set aside the provisions of the county’s “clean/safe” law, but decided in a separate 3-1 vote to continue funding the county’s related litter control/code enforcement officer position through the end of June 2014.

Councilman Douglas E. Copenhaver Jr., who voted against the litter control officer funding issue, said the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority should be handling litter control enforcement efforts, not the county’s planning department.

Council President Anthony J. “Tony” Petrucci recused himself and did not discuss or vote on the changes that were proposed.

County Operations Officer Alan Davis told council members Thursday that he, County Council Attorney Norwood Bentley, County Councilman Jim Barnhart and Planning Department Director Michael Thompson met Monday to discuss the Safe & Clean Agency and the litter control officer, and concluded changes should be made.

In addition to setting aside provisions of the ordinance, the committee proposed elimination of the full-time litter control/code enforcement officer position by Sept. 1 and creation of a part-time job for floodplain mitigation work.

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The current litter control/code enforcement officer helps carry out the provisions of the ordinance and also works with federal officials and property owners to remove residential structures from floodplain areas.

The officer also assists with code enforcement responsibilities regarding unsafe structures, which currently are the responsibility of the county’s chief code official: the county engineer.

Instead of eliminating the position by Sept. 1, council member Jim Barnhart said the delay would provide time for the county to meet with the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority about managing the litter control program.

Davis told county council members that the solid waste authority was not contacted about the proposed transfer of the litter control program and Solid Waste Authority Chairman Clint Hogbin confirmed as much after Thursday’s council meeting.

Hogbin said state lawmakers have given county solid waste authorities the power to employ litter control officers, but added that Berkeley County’s SWA could not employ someone without “robbing money from somewhere else” in the current budget.

Hogbin said it is his understanding that county solid waste authorities that employ litter control officers receive at least some amount of money from their county commissions to do so.

Most of the litter control officers are not full-time positions, Hogbin said. Hogbin also noted there are state funds for the cleanup of open dumps, but they are only available to the Department of Environmental Protection and solid waste authorities.

Hogbin said he thinks Berkeley County’s employment of a litter control officer through the planning department was unique in West Virginia.

Bentley said in Thursday’s meeting that the changes proposed did not contemplate the discontinuation of cleanup efforts in the county.

Council member Elaine Mauck pushed for keeping the litter control officer position, saying the ($50,266) salary and benefits currently budgeted for the job is “a minimal amount of money” to try to keep the county clean.

“We don’t get a second chance at a first impression,” Mauck said.

After the vote, Copenhaver said he didn’t think it was fair to reduce the responsibilities of the litter control officer and not reduce the compensation.

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