Politics & Government

Bibb seeking to stop illegal dumping

Faced with repeated garbage dumping on a sparsely populated stretch of street, there’s a chance that Macon-Bibb County officials could seek a shortcut to a solution by hindering illicit dumpers from escaping unseen.

The overgrown lots and abandoned houses on one end of Churchill Street -- a curve between its intersection with Willow Lane and the spot where Churchill runs into Gled­hill Street -- make attractive spots for people seeking to avoid landfill fees. That had neighbors complaining, even though government crews have cleaned up piles of trash there before, Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Virgil Watkins said.

“When I talk to Public Works about it, they were like, ‘We were out there last week,’ but sure enough, there’s more trash out there now,” he said.

Watkins sponsored a resolution to block off the affected part of Churchill Street, because otherwise a lack of residents and property maintenance make it likely the dumping will continue. Of the dozen or so parcels there, one used to have a house, since demolished, while two more have houses that are on the condemned list, and one has a pending nuisance abatement charge, according to the resolution.

Most of the properties that would be cut off from street access by a barricade are owned by absentee landlords and various agencies or banks, according to Bibb County Tax Assessor’s records. None appears to be occupied.

Watkins suggested putting a steel cable across the street in two places, giving firefighters and sheriff’s deputies a key to the cable lock.

On Nov. 25 the resolution was tabled in committee, pending a public hearing. A hearing hasn’t yet been scheduled, said Janice Ross, training and events coordinator for Macon-Bibb commissioners.

Burnesee Hill, CEO of Manna Ministries, a nonprofit community organization formed by the nearby Lizzie Chapel Baptist Church, objected to cutting off part of Churchill Street. She told commissioners there are dumping problems on other parts of Churchill and surrounding streets which can’t be blocked without stranding nearby residents. Hill said a solution is needed for the problem in general, not just for one spot.

Manna Ministries was the city’s major partner in redeveloping nearby Bartlett Crossing, Watkins said. Hill told commissioners her organization often does property cleanups in the area.

Kevin Barkley, Macon-Bibb’s director of the Solid Waste Department, said his department and others are working on a joint strategy to discourage dumping on both public and private property.

“Our goal is to address this location and other areas throughout Bibb County that are known illegal dump sites,” he said.

John Baker, building abatement manager for the government’s Department of Business Development Services, which handles code enforcement, said his department gets a few complaints about dumping at addresses on the west end of Churchill. There are several code enforcement cases in the area, but not many open service requests, he said via email. Due to the considerable number of houses on Churchill, which extends for six blocks, barricading one end might cause difficulties, Baker said.

Watkins said he knows blocking a street isn’t a cure-all, but he thinks it’s worth a try. At least it would make illegal dumpers retrace their route when leaving, passing occupied houses whose residents might spot them, he said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.