Countywide cleanup nets 15 tons of trash

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — Heat didn’t stop Pickens County employees from turning out in force Friday morning to do their part in making the county a little cleaner.

County council chairman Roy Costner and Sen. Rex Rice held a press conference on the side of U.S. Highway 123 about the county’s third “Team Up and Clean Up Anti-Litter Blitz.”

“This is one of the coolest things that I’ve ever seen,” Costner said.

In addition to county employees, area municipalities, the Pickens County Legislative Delegation and the S.C. Department of Transportation “all came together for one day to clean up Pickens County,” he said.

More than 600 people took part in the cleanup.

“Within just the first few hours of cleaning up, we’re already close to 15 tons of trash picked up,” Costner said. “That’s an awesome thing.”

Costner said he was thankful for all the employee participation.

“This is the greatest place to live in the world,” he said. “We just want to keep it beautiful so that everybody can enjoy it.”

Thanks to a $20,000 grant from Palmetto Pride, the county will soon be able to hire a part-time litter control officer, Costner said.

“We are really excited about what Palmetto Pride has been able to bring to the table, with us having a litter officer onboard,” he said.

The litter control officer, a new position, will work with county staff and the magistrate’s office.

“It’s not meant to be that punitive,” Costner said. “If somebody’s dumping tires somewhere, go get them. The goal is to educate people who don’t understand or haven’t figured out why we keep having to come out here and pick up all this trash.”

During its May meeting, county council passed second reading of an ordinance providing remedies and penalties for illegal littering.

“We’ve got to be able to give him the ability to do his job,” Costner said of the litter officer. “That’s what that ordinance is enabling him to do. My personal goal, and I think I speak for full council, it isn’t meant to be punitive, it’s meant to be how do we keep from having to do this, to where people go ‘Man, Pickens County is the cleanest place in the world. I want to go visit there.’”

Litter education is just as important as cleaning up, Costner said.

“We don’t always want to go out here and do this,” he said. “We’re all happy to be able to do it, but if we can get people to understand how important it is cover up your vehicles when you go to the landfill — if that happens, that’ll save us a lot of trash.”

Palmetto Pride and the county are teaming up to offer residents tarps, Costner said.

“If people show up and they forget, we’re going to give them a tarp so they can cover up,” he said.

Incentives are being added to boost participation to the county’s “5 on Friday” campaign.

“If everybody in Pickens County picked up five pieces of trash (on Fridays), we’d pick up a half a million pieces of trash every Friday,” Costner said.

Thanks to a partnership with McDonald’s, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office will be “armed” with $10 gift cards, he said.

“If they catch you picking up trash on Friday, you might wind up with a $10 gift card to go grab something to eat at McDonald’s,” Costner said.

Rice said he’s been talking to county magistrates about the possibility of using those sentenced to community service to help fight litter as well.

Several years ago, Rice adopted a two-mile stretch of highway leading out of Easley toward the Greenville County line.

“The first time we picked it up, we picked up about 120 bags of trash,” Rice said. “Today we’re down to about 110 bags in a four-mile stretch, so it’s definitely working.”

Rice and Costner threw down a couple of challenges at the end of the press conference.

“I would encourage all the members of the General Assembly to adopt a two-mile stretch of highway,” Rice said. “I’m going to challenge each member of the Senate, each member of the House to get out and adopt a highway, put their name out on the roads and show what they need to do.”

Rice said he got involved after receiving a phone call from a resident who asked “Can you get somebody to pick up Highway 123?”

“I thought about it and said ‘That somebody probably needs to be me,’” he said. “So I got out and started picking up.”

Costner said he’s challenging every other county in the state.

“There’s 46 counties,” he said. “If all 46 counties can do what we’re doing, what the folks here in Pickens County are doing, we’ll make the state a much more beautiful place.”