Keep Clayton County Beautiful Program Abolished
What is the best way to eliminate litter and blight in Clayton County? Come Home To Clayton takes a deep dive into the Commissioners decision-making process that led to a 3-2 vote to abolish the Keep Clayton County Beautiful Program (KCCB).
Needless to say, tension was high at last Tuesday’s Board of Commissioner’s Meeting (2/16/21), and there has been controversy ever since. Therefore, even though Come Home To Clayton likes to distance itself from politics, we feel it necessary to report on this issue because it directly affects real estate and property values.
Let’s face it, everyone desires to live in a clean community, and Clayton residents are no different. At the meeting, 3 out of the five commissioners voted to abolish KCCB, and while that sounds devastating to some, it may be the change we need – only you can decide.
Litter Causes Billions of Dollars, if not Trillions Lost
So much is on the line when it comes to creating a more beautiful, cohesive community – it’s not just trash. Property values are on the line, so is economic development. According to the 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study, 36% of business development officials say that litter impacts a decision to locate to a community, while 55% of Realtors think that litter reduces property values by about 9%. The study also reveals that litter clean-up costs the U.S. more than an estimated $11.5 billion each year.
Many states and cities have Beautification Programs, so I understand why they exist. The question is: Are these programs ‘one size fits all?’ After researching the Keep Clayton County Beautiful Program, plus the state and national programs, I discovered that most of them are heavily dependent upon volunteerism. Let’s be honest: How many times within the last year have you volunteered to pick up trash in your community? People may sign up and volunteer to pick up trash occasionally, but not often.
An Aggressive Approach to Fight Litter and Blight
I am inspired by and appreciate all of our commissioners because they each want the county to be beautiful, but they have different views on how to achieve it.
In my opinion, Clayton County needs an aggressive approach to create and maintain a more beautiful county. One size does not fit all; we need our own unique solutions to this problem.
I am looking forward to a new approach that will yield much better results faster. When homeowner associations (HOAs) are not mandatory, concerned citizens rely heavily on Code Enforcement. Clayton County recently moved its Code Enforcement Division from the police department to the Clayton County Corrections Department, which already operates the Refuse Control Unit that removes graffiti, litter from grounds and roads, performs force clean abatement and grass cutting using inmate labor and court-ordered community service workers.
This organizational move makes good sense, and with the Commissioners’ vote to abolish KCCB, I hope Code Enforcement can use those taxpayer dollars (which is roughly $150,000 annually according to Clayton County CFO Ramona Bivins) to purchase lawn equipment, tools, mulch, perennials, etc., then the prisoners can keep Clayton County beautiful. Or, this department can hire full-time groundsmen to get and keep Clayton beautiful. Plus, we need operators of our street sweeper to work nightly and on the weekends to keep Clayton beautiful. However the county decides to organize it, we have to make Clayton County attractive again and then maintain it regularly.
Clayton County Commissioners Give Their Views on Beautification
Come Home To Clayton asked a series of questions to each of the five Clayton County Commissioners to get their views on the matter. Due to busy schedules, only 3 of the five commissioners gave comments, and this is what they had to say (the responses appear in alphabetical order by the Commissioner’s last name):
Q: Why did you vote to maintain the Keep Clayton County Beautiful program?
Chairman Jeff Turner: I voted to keep the KCCB program because it is needed in Clayton County. The Board of Commissioners constantly talks about the trash and litter problem in our county, and the KCCB program was supposed to be the start of working with the community and school system to educate and create partnerships to begin mitigating the issue. The government alone cannot solve the littering problem by ourselves. It’ll take everyone, every business, and every organization to address the problem successfully. The KCCB Program Manager was going to be the impetus of coordinating everyone to make it happen.
Q: Why did you vote to abolish the Keep Clayton County Beautiful program?
Commissioner Felicia Franklin: The Citizens of Clayton County have entrusted me as their Commissioner to be a good fiscal steward over their hard-earned and faithfully paid tax dollars. This particular initiative simply did not reach the expected level of achievement after a year and a half of being created and funded. For this reason, I voted to reallocate the funds to be better used so that we as citizens can have executable and proven results.
Commissioner Sonna Gregory: We have to get Clayton Beautiful first before such a program is implemented. Right now, anyone can see the right of ways, and sidewalks are littered with household goods and trash. It is killing our property values. Let’s clean up our county via mandatory trash service and the current road crews that clean up. KCCB is an add-on. There is no way this program can actually clean up the county. Why is it that no one had heard of the program until last week? This KCCB Program is intended to maintain the cleanliness of the county once we get there.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your individual district as it relates to beautification?
Commissioner Felicia Franklin: The first goal is to clean up and maintain the cleanliness of our community. Secondly, to work with GDOT to beautify both State Routes GA85 and GA3-19/41. Thirdly, develop a Business Improvement District and Community Improvement District to ensure that business owners have a vested interest in beautifying and maintaining commercial properties. One additional idea I am working on is to create a clean community coalition that is countywide, yet district-driven.
Commissioner Sonna Gregory: More HOA(s) and civic groups taking responsibility to keep the communities clean. I hope people will develop and maintain pride in this district to keep it clean. During the pandemic is the best time to reach out to organizations to get involved. This was/is not happening.
Q: What needs to be done on a countywide basis to address cleanup and beautification?
Commissioner Felicia Franklin: 1) First, we need to clarify and determine the effectiveness of what we are doing now, then outline ways to move forward in collaboration with all county stakeholders. Originally I supported this program. Unfortunately, after 18 months of existence, there were no accomplishments to report.
2) Mandatory trash pick-up is a must. This would allow for us to institute county cleanup days where fees are waived for large appliances.
3) The third step, which has already been taken by the Board of Commissioners, is to consolidate Refuse Control and the two separate Code Enforcement Divisions for more efficiency and effectiveness with the utilization of detail workers. The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to appropriate funds to complete the transaction of Code Enforcement in the amount of $981,667, during the February 2, 2021, regular board meeting. Code Enforcement would also coordinate their details with the Sheriff’s Office.
4) Supply the newly consolidated Code Enforcement Division with support and resources to include additional personnel and tools to clean up the county on a regular basis. We need observation cameras to identify violators who are dumping on our county roadways. Use the current county-owned street sweepers to keep our streets clean. Such efforts would be maximized by coordinating tasks with the Sheriff’s Office through the county and state cleanup detail.
5) Education is the key. Partner with Clayton County Public Schools, as well as the Clayton County Water Authority to educate and engage our students through hands-on projects about the harmful effects of trash and litter in our communities and overall environment.
Commissioner Sonna Gregory: We need to address the situation with mandatory trash pick-up. It is needed. Many residents do not get a trash service because it is not mandatory. The bags of trash end up on the street. I have seen over and over people riding down the street holding a bag of trash out the window. They are probably planning to take it to an apartment complex, etc. Their trash never makes it because it is dropped alongside the street. The citizens end up paying for other people’s trash pick-up because we will get calls to have it picked up.
Chairman Jeff Turner: I believe that for countywide cleanup and beautification efforts to be successful the community as a whole needs to be involved. Our kids and some adults need to be educated about the environmental impact of illegal dumping and littering and learn to take pride in the community where they live, work, and play.
Q: How would you go about implementing programs to enhance beautification?
Commissioner Felicia Franklin: In addition to the program details outlined above, community engagement is critical to the ongoing cleanup and beautification of our county. However, to work effectively and efficiently, volunteer efforts must work in tandem with concentrated countywide initiatives as previously outlined. Currently, a group of Lovejoy and Mundy’s Mill High alumni has expressed interest in creating an ongoing sponsored community cleanup and beautification project. This type of volunteer engagement allows for constituent ownership of the county and county resources and programming, allowing for the betterment of our community in addressing the current blight.
One additional program is our Citizens Review Board, approved in the fiscal year 2020-2021, which has begun to hold businesses accountable for the trash around their properties. The Citizen’s Review Board is charged with reviewing the number of violations received by a business owner then determining whether or not that business owner would be able to obtain a new business license or if their business license would be revoked. We have seen some success in this area in partnership with the police department.
Commissioner Sonna Gregory: The reason the program was abolished some years ago was because it was ineffective. Taxpayer dollars were being used just to let an administrator travel to conferences, etc., and no results were being produced in the county. Once the county has taken a major initiative to clean up the county, such as mandatory trash pick up, then we should come back with the icing on the cake to keep it clean with KCCB.
Chairman Jeff Turner: I pushed for the KCCB initiative because I truly believe in the program, and that was the entity I was counting on to implement the programs. However, since the program has been abolished, we will have to rely on our Department of Corrections’ Refuse Control Unit in conjunction with other county departments and our partnership with community stakeholders to implement educational and beautification programs.
Q: What will happen to the Keep Clayton County Beautiful Program manager now that the program is ending?
Commissioner Felicia Franklin: The decision to re-assign the one KCCB staff member would be totally up to the operations manager of the county.
Commissioner Sonna Gregory: I would like to see if the program’s manager will better fit into another position.
Chairman Jeff Turner: The KCCB Program Manager and her assistant have been released effective the date of abolishment.
Q: What would you say to constituents who may feel the county is abandoning beautification?
Commissioner Felicia Franklin: I am committed to transforming our community economically and socially. This begins with cleaning up and beautifying our county so that it truly becomes a sought out and desired place to live, work, and play. For this reason, I am working with the commissioners to reallocate the funds to be better used so that we as citizens can begin to see proven results. I will continue my efforts for a better Clayton County as I work with local municipalities and government agencies to transform our community.
Commissioner Sonna Gregory: We are NOT! Cleaning up the county has been my primary focus since elected to the BOC. Too often, politics have gotten in the way of cleaning up the county. If it was popular for a commissioner to lead the charge to clean up the county and it was close to re-election, then the mandatory trash pickup and cleanliness became unpopular or unimportant. We have been going back and forth with this foolishness for the past ten years. When is enough, enough?
Chairman Jeff Turner: I would tell citizens that the BOC isn’t abandoning our beautification efforts. Some commissioners felt that we haven’t seen any return on our investment and wanted the money allocated for the program to go toward more trash pick-up efforts. It is my hope that we can still find a way to educate our citizens on the impact that illegal dumping and littering has on our community and to find a way for our county to receive the status of being a “Green Community” recognized by the Atlanta Regional Commission.
So, there you have it — Three of our 5 Clayton County Commissioners in their own words. I get chills from reading their responses because I know that change is in the air for Clayton County, GA. By putting their ideas into action, we can create a hybrid beautification program unique to Clayton County. We can call it something like the Cleanup Clayton County Program or the Clayton County Quality of Life Program.
The bottom line is this: Everyone wants to live in a beautiful community, and Clayton County residents are no different. Therefore, we each must play an essential part in keeping our community beautiful no matter where we live in the world. We must stop littering and encourage others to do the same and continually support beautification programs as they emerge from our government leaders.
Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Change can be uncomfortable, but we must embrace it to improve the quality of life for all citizens. I am confident that our leaders will work together to achieve this new beautification program. In the meantime, please excuse our mess while we create a more beautiful Clayton County.
QUESTION FOR YOU: What beautification improvements would you like to see made in Clayton County? Please leave your responses in the comments section below.
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We can have the parents who we give a scholarship to in football or any sports in Clayton County help to keep Clayton clean or they do not get the scholarship and pay full price for their kids. Parks and Recreational can help with this matter as well. The juveniles can help with this matter. We have the resources to keep our county beautiful.
Hi Mr. Benifield, Thank you for your suggestions!
Clayton County should have a coordinated program that addresses the main areas of the County.
Code Enforcement should have someone to go around and locate, or implement trash pickup without the community having to be the one to always call or notify them.
No matter what the program is called, we need trash picked up on a regular basis.
Hi Ms. Muhammad, Thank you for your suggestions!
I think we need to enforce fines for dumping. We need to post signs in the green space along Hwy 85 and other major roads that simply say “Don’t dump your trash here”. “Take your trash with you.” “Offenders will be fined”. “You are being surveilled.” This has to stop!
Hi Mr. Sims, Thank you for your suggestions!
Do we have any new developments on this issue?
Hi Terry Sims, The county is getting cleaner. I often see the prisoners out picking up trash and maintaining the grass along highways. Are you seeing any progress in your area? If not, I recommend that you download the Click Clayton App to report any issues. Here’s the link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/click-clayton/id1106505419
Thank you for responding; yes, I do see the prisoners picking up trash, and we really appreciate it. I don’t think that’s enough. We need a live anti-littering program that includes signs along the greenspace along Hwy 85, for example. We need to assess fines and post this information on billboards throughout the county. Cameras should be used as leverage to discourage this heinous act.
It seems like Clayton County wants to be known as a landfill. They just continue to go around to the same exact areas and collect the trash. Does anyone ever go that extra step to look at the trash and identify the violators? Homestead Road in Rex is a notorious dumping area. I stopped one day and saw a pizza box with other trash. It had the name, address, and phone number on the box. Either issue that person a fine or have them come properly dispose their waste. One time when I lived on Mount Zion Boulevard trash was scattered across SIX yards. The officer told me there’s no way to determine if it came from a trash truck. I’ve never in my life known a trash truck to lose what it’s carrying. Additionally I want to see something like cheap or free transfer station. So Clayton County residents can take their trash to with no problems. After all it’s costing the County to clean up these areas. Use that money to operate the transfer stations. Code Enforcement needs to stop frequently visiting the same exact neighborhoods, and show some attention to those neglected areas. At the current moment I don’t feel that high grass is a main concern. Yes overgrown grass is. I don’t feel parking on the grass is a priority concern.
Anyone can email me about this issue. Dwayne0510@aol.com
Good Morning Mr. Dwayne, Thank you for your suggestions!
I see the prisoners out cleaning up and I really appreciate them, however, I think we need to put something in place that will deter people from littering in the first place. We need to make it clear that it will not be tolerated. No more than 2 days after the cleanup, trash is starting to accumulate again. I realize it may not be totally eradicated, but we have to do something different. I think we need signs and fines….I don’t see any signs discouraging littering along Hwy 85. We need a strong program if we want more homeowners to “Come Home to Clayton”.