By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor
“For the last three years, we have been trying to get our arms around the litter problem on Interstate 71 and State Route 665,” said Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage.
According to Stage, overfilled trucks, heading to the SWACO Franklin County Landfill on State Route 665, are a big component of the litter problem.
The city is taking steps to combat the issue. At a recent meeting, council unanimously approved an ordinance to impose fines to commercial and heavy vehicles carrying overweight loads.
“Our city code was not as tight as it could have been on these trucks,” said Stage.
The city’s administration asked the division of police to review the issue and present its findings to Grove City Council.
Officer Greg Barber said, “There is a huge problem with trash on the roads in Grove City. We have to see what we can do.”
Barber worked with commercial enforcement staff from Franklin County and found that there is a problem with front loading dumpster garbage trucks. He said lightweight materials blow out of the trucks and items roll from the open-top dumpster.
“There is also no way for the driver to see if any trash has fallen out,” said Barber.
According to the officer, the weight of the trucks are an issue and drivers are sometimes encouraged to load up to make fewer trips to the landfill. Under this legislation, if an officer believes that a truck is overloaded, they can pull the driver over where they would wait for a county sheriff’s deputy or a state highway patrolman to arrive with a portable scale.
Barber said Grove City officers do not have portable scales, but he has been assured that the county and highway patrol are willing to work with the city and assist when they can.
Operators who violate the code, without a permit, would be fined $80 for the first 2,000 pounds of overload and $100 for 5,000 pounds in addition of $1 per one hundred pounds. If a load is more than 5,000, but less than 10,000, the operator will face a fine of $130 plus an additional $2 per one hundred pounds of overload. For all overloads more than 10,000 pounds, the operator shall be fined $160 with an additional $3 per one hundred pounds. Imprisonment is also a potential penalty.
Barber believes this legislation will help to deter offenders.
The legislation does not only pertain to large trash trucks, it also includes private citizens using a utility trailer to haul unwanted items.
According to Barber, a large volume of big pieces of debris on the highway along I-71 come from these types of trailers that are hitched to the back of a pick-up truck.
The city will also be issuing citations for trucks without tarps.
Stage said this legislation is just the start of the city’s effort to crack down on litter. He said police officers would be issuing more litter citations and the city plans to work with SWACO and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to address the matter.
In addition, Stage said the city administration would likely revisit regulations on tarping or covering loads.
Breanna Badanes, a regional public information officer with ODOT, said the organization has had ongoing conversations with Grove City officials about the litter issue on Interstate 71.
“It is a big problem and it is frustrating because it’s 100 percent preventable,” said Badanes.
She said as soon as ODOT crews clean a section of the highway, a few days later, it looks as if it hasn’t been touched. According to Badanes, the crews pick up litter when they can, but it is that same crews that must fill potholes and perform other tasks that keep drivers safe.
So far this year, ODOT has filled 10,000 bags of roadway trash in central Ohio. Last year, they filled 60,000 bags from the central Ohio region and 480,000 from across the state. According to Badanes, this equates to about $4 million in resources a year.
“We do what we can to educate drivers,” said Badanes. “We will keep communication open with the city and make that section (I-71) a priority when we can.”