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Trash and debris litter the embankment below the Athens Wal-Mart gasoline station adjacent to U.S. 31.
Daily photos by John Godbey
Trash and debris litter the embankment below the Athens Wal-Mart gasoline station adjacent to U.S. 31.

A Dirty
Shame In Athens

Councilman says litter problem jeopardizes city’s BRAC efforts

By Holly Hollman

ATHENS — Visitors are calling Athens a dirty town.

Not the kind of “dirty” associated with strip clubs and triple-X bookstores. The city doesn’t have those.

It’s the kind of dirty associated with people’s trash littering the roadways.

City Councilman Ronnie Marks said that earlier this month, industrial prospects visiting the city noted the fast food bags, empty cups, metal scrap and other debris at the city’s main entranceway at U.S. 72 and Interstate 65.

“They all said Athens has a lot to offer, but then they remarked on how much litter we have,” Marks said.

With spin-off companies and new families looking at locating in the area as the federal Base Realignment and Closure process moves jobs to Redstone Arsenal, Marks said it is “time to start raising Cain.”

“It’s time to do what that comedian always says and Git-R-Done,” Marks said, referring to Larry the Cable Guy’s catchphrase.

In June, the council amended its litter ordinance to impose fines of $200 (first offense) to $400 for littering, as well as community service of from eight to 16 hours picking up litter.

On Friday, Marks visited municipal court and Athens police. Neither had a copy of the amended ordinance, so the municipal judge has not fined or sentenced anyone under the new version.

Councilman Ronnie Marks wants Athens to get a handle on litter.
Councilman Ronnie Marks wants Athens to get a handle on litter.
Police Chief Wayne Harper and Capt. Tracy Harrison told Marks they did meet with patrol officers a week ago and told them to be vigilant about litter enforcement.

Harrison said the difficulty, however, is that an officer must see someone litter in order to issue a citation.

“Most people will look around and make sure they don’t see a police car before tossing it out of their vehicle,” Harrison said.

Marks said he wants the council, police, Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful and community to work together to create an inmate litter crew. The city has a bus it can outfit with lights and equipment, Marks said. He suggested the city hire a retired police officer to supervise the litter crew.

Harper said he would arrange a meeting with his staff, Marks, Council President Harold Wales, Municipal Judge Don Mansell and KALB members to draft a proposal for the litter crew.

Harper said the judge also can sentence other offenders — driving under the influence offenders, other traffic violators or those who fail to pay fines — to community service to pick up litter.

On Friday, the trashy areas Marks found were on the hillside at Wal-Mart on U.S. 31, U.S. 31 and U.S. 72, U.S. 72 and Interstate 65, the U.S. 72 median and Hobbs Street.

On a sliver of greenway at U.S. 31 and U.S. 72, Marks filled a garbage bag half full of litter in less than 10 minutes.

“Some of this stuff you know has been here a while,” Marks said. “When you drive in and see this, it’s someone’s first impression of our community, and this is not the impression Athens wants to have.”

Exterminating litterbugs

  • Adopt-A-Mile or Adopt-A-Spot. Businesses, civic groups and residents can adopt a mile or public area in Limestone to keep clean. Businesses that don’t have the manpower to pick it up can sponsor the cost of maintaining the area.

  • Use the Limestone Litterbug Hotline, 233-8728. If you see someone throw litter from an automobile, call in the date, time, license plate number, location, vehicle description and what you witnessed. If you find an illegal dump, give the location, and a city or county officer will look for identifying information to hold someone accountable.

  • Be a good example, especially for our children, by never littering.

  • Let others see you picking up litter.

  • Invite Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful, KALB, to speak to a civic group or classroom.

  • Help KALB raise funds by attending the Swam John’s Fish Fray on Feb. 19, 4-7 p.m., at the Beasley Center on Marion and Bryan streets. Cost is $8. Meals are fish, shrimp or chicken strips with fries, hushpuppies, slaw and tea, and dessert while it lasts. Buy tickets at First American Bank branches in Athens and Capshaw and Pablo’s on Market Street.

  • Learn more online at:

    provided by lynne hart, executive coordinator, kalb

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