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Parts of illegal dumping bill concern locals

ALPENA — A bill that would increase the penalites for those who litter contains a provision that Alpena Township Supervisor Nathan Skibbe says is “disheartening.”

A bill that would make it a misdemeanor to leave more than 3 cubic feet of litter on either public or private land and would increase fines for doing so is making its way through the Legislature.

Skibbe said that, while he certainly supports any bill that strengthens law enforcement agencies’ ability to correct terrible behaviors, he believes the bill is a little shortsighted because it would eliminate a provision giving the township the ability to punish someone who abandons a vessel, vehicle, sportscraft, or assembled structure.

Instead, the bill would require the owner of such items to notify the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and either remove the object within 48 hours or provide the DNR with a detailed plan for removal. Failure to do so would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 for each day the litter is not removed.

“I am very disappointed in the language therein, because, here in northern Michigan, we have incidents I know I’ve personally faced where people will abandon their dilapidated boat on its trailer out in the middle of the woods,” he said, noting the township has also had to deal with abandoned vehicles and ice shanties.

“So, those are things that aren’t so much of an issue in suburban Detroit or in downtown Detroit, but they do affect the remainder of the state, especially northern Michigan, where we have a greater opportunity for outdoor recreation,” Skibbe said.

Rogers City officials recently cracked down on residents who choose to leave household trash at the city’s transfer station. A high-resolution camera was installed earlier this year after Mayor Scott McLennan discovered seven bags of garbage left behind recycling bins at the transfer station.

Last fall, McLennan said public works employees would monitor the camera and check up on the recycling bins.

Since the cameras were installed, McLennan said, one ticket was issued and another litterer was identified. He said that person was given a warning.

“The cameras and publicity related to the strict enforcement policy have led to a significant reduction in illegal dumping at the transfer station in Rogers City,” he said.

The illegal dumping bill, introduced by state Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee for review. It amends the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

Johnson’s legislative director, Abby Klomparens, said Jonson introduced the bill because the dumping of bulk waste is a big issue, especially in Detroit.

“People see vacant houses or vacant lots and come in and dump waste,” she said. “A lot of the times, we see people coming in from outside of the city — so, rogue contractors coming in and dumping in Detroit. This is just another way to deter people from coming in and dumping on streets and alleyways.”

Klomparens added illegal dumping is bad for the environment.

The bill would increase fines for illegal dumping up to $2,500 for first offenses and up to $5,000 for subsequent offenses for those who dump between 3 cubic feet and 5 cubic yards of waste.

Those who dump 5 cubic yards or more would face a fine of up to $5,000 for a first offense and up to $10,000 for a second offense.

The fine would increase by $5,000 for each subsequent offense.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.