Street sweeping fines eyed by agency

April 25, 2019 GMT

HUNTINGTON — The Huntington Water Quality Board wants the money generated from tickets given by police to motorists who do not comply with notices to move their vehicle for street sweeping.

The board will use the money to offset the cost of paying a police officer to write more tickets to people blocking street-sweeping machines, which has been a problem for contractors seeking to keep debris out of the city’s sewer system.

Water Quality Board members unanimously agreed Tuesday to ask city attorneys to draft an ordinance to present to Huntington City Council, asking them to give the ticket money to the water board. The non-moving violation tickets, which are $25 each, currently go into the city’s general fund.

That money would be used to offset a contract for a police officer to continue writing more tickets, said Brian Bracey, executive director of the Water Quality Board.

“We are not looking to make a profit off of this,” Bracey said. “We would just like people to be compliant.”

When a curbed street is due to be cleaned, signs are placed along parking spots informing motorists of the impending sweeping in their area. The signs prohibit parking on the street between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the days of sweeping.

However, some people ignore the warnings and park anyway, preventing the street-sweeping machine from adequately cleaning the roadway. Within this month, police wrote 117 tickets to motorists in several districts across the city, said Sanitary Board Director Wes Leek.

The street-sweeping service started in July 2015 as an effort to reduce the impact of stormwater flooding on city roadways. The Sanitary Board contracted with Contract Sweepers of Columbus, Ohio, to provide the service, which resumed spring sweeping earlier this month.

Crews have removed approximately 296,000 pounds of debris this spring and more than 1.3 million pounds of debris since the service began in 2015.

Mayor Steve Williams, who serves as chairman of the Water Quality Board, asked Leek to forward those numbers to City Council members. Williams said he is frequently stopped by people critical of the street-sweeping service and assumes City Council members are, too.

The service is not a beautification effort, but is a critical action to prevent flooding at clogged catch basins and keep debris from harming the overall system, Williams said. The West Virginia Supreme Court in 1999 also mandated that the Huntington Water Quality Board is responsible for keeping city streets cleaned of this debris.

“I remember when I was growing up in this little town of 900 people, the garbage truck had printed on the side, ’Satisfaction guaranteed or double your garbage back/” Williams said. “I would love to be able to say to these folks, ’Satisfaction guaranteed or we will be glad to bring the debris back, all 296,000 pounds of debris that has been removed/”

Williams said he suggests people take pride in their neighborhood and sweep streets themselves if they want it pristine.

Vice Chairman Jim Rorrer asked Leek if it would do any good to skip streets where a large amount of people park in the way of street sweepers.

“It would hurt us more than it would help us,” Leek said.

The proposed ordinance could be presented to the city’s Administration and Finance Committee at its next meeting May 13. If the committee approves it, the ordinance will be forwarded to City Council, where it will require two readings before passage.

Travis Crum Is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.