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MILLERSBURG -- Among the bags and boxes of recyclables overflowing from and surrounding the bins at Holmes County's former children's home sat discarded toys, furniture and trash.
The mess was discovered Wednesday morning, and Holmes County Commissioner Joe Miller said he's had enough. He immediately ordered the recycling collection site closed for business until two roll-off trash containers can arrive to haul away the garbage.
Misuse of the county's recycling locations is not a new problem, but hit a critical point following the holiday weekend, after which residents appeared to discard what remained of their Christmas partying and gift-giving at several sites throughout the county.
The one along Hardy Township Road 323 was the worst. There, Miller said, the 10 bins were empty on Friday. And, in less than a week, they were filled ... with piles of discarded recycling and trash extending several feet out from each of the containers.
By late Wednesday morning, Miller said he'd already met with Sheriff Timothy W. Zimmerly and had plans to discuss the matter with incoming Prosecutor Sean Warner.
"It's illegal to put it on the ground," Miller said. "You can't throw trash (even if recyclable) on the ground. That's littering."
For an estimated cost of $200, Miller said, the county will have to pay to have the excess hauled away by a trash collector before the recycling can be collected.
While it may seem a small cost, it's not one Miller is excited to bear, considering the county invests $70,000 annually in the recycling program. "We're regulated by the EPA to provide the service, and we gladly do it, but it's not a dump," said Miller.
Moving into the future, he said, the county will work with residents to identify the proper use of the recycling bins and catch those who continue to violate. "We're going to work with the sheriff and the prosecutor to come up with a plan to start enforcing the law."
To that end, he said he hopes to install better signs and security cameras.
"We're going to fix it, and we need people's cooperation," he said.
The Hardy Township location will be a priority for such enforcement because "it's so in the boonies, people think they can get away with it. But, the bottom line is,people need to clean up."
There have been problems countywide, where drop-off sites are located in Glenmont, Holmesville, Berlin, Walnut Creek, Winesburg, Mount Hope and Clark.
"We've been checking all of them," said Miller, adding, "Somebody stuck a mattress into one in Mount Hope over the weekend."
As with the Hardy Township site, trash must be removed from and around all bins before collectors will pick up recycling. That means an investment of man hours and added cost to the county, said Miller, who is hopeful changes will inspire voluntary compliance.
"This stuff can't go on. We want to make it better, and we need the people's help to make that happen."
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.