By TRAVIS HANDY
Roadways throughout Wythe County will become a little cleaner as a result of an effort by the county’s Board of Supervisors to use more inmate manpower for litter pickup.
According to Keith Dunagan, Chief Deputy for the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office, the Board has secured as many as eight inmates from the regional jail to work six hours every Saturday along county roads. In the past, inmates from the regional jail have typically worked in Wythe County only one day each month.
“If the weather holds up, local residents can now expect to see inmates working every Saturday – year round,” said Dunagan. “In the days to come, as new inmates become qualified to work outside the jail, we hope to expand the
program to include additional litter pick-up days.”
A press release from Wythe County said the program began this past weekend, as inmates worked to collect over 50 bags of trash beside Fort Chiswell Road.
Fort Chiswell Supervisor Joe Hale was concerned about the amount of litter accumulating on roadways. Hale and other members of the Wythe County Board of Supervisors worked with the Sheriff’s Department and the New River Valley Regional Jail to allow inmates the opportunity to give back to the community. In the past, inmates were making one-day, monthly visits to the county to pick up litter.
Wythe County Public Information Officer, Jeremy T.K. Farley, said the program is expected to result in savings for the county.
“Wythe County is a unique locality, in that we have two interstate highways cutting through our jurisdiction,” said Farley. “With the (70,000-plus) vehicles per day comes an incredible amount of litter – litter that previously was going largely uncollected. This program enables an avenue for trash to be collected, virtually free of charge.”
Only non-violent inmates serving “non-lengthy” terms will be part of the work program. Farley said with eight inmates working eight hours each week, the county stands to save well over 3,000 man hours annually. He said hopes are to expand the program to include additional days in the near future.
County officials are encouraging input from local residents regarding roads in need of cleanup. They are asked to contact their district’s Supervisor or to email the county at HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org to weigh in. Farley indicated the public would play a huge role in deciding which roadways will be cleaned.
“Obviously, we’re not going to be able to answer everyone’s request, simply because we lack the inmates to do so,” said Farley. “At this stage, we’re asking the public to tell us which roads stand in the greatest need and are making our decisions accordingly.”
Farley said he has yet to hear a single negative response from residents or taxpayers of the county and they are particularly thrilled that the county has included the public in the process of selecting which roads should be cleaned each week. Each cleanup team will consist of six to eight inmates.