Budget cuts could mean more litter on N.C. highways
Posted June 5, 2009 5:32 p.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2009 7:27 p.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — Shoring up the state's budget could mean a mess for state highways. The House budget proposal calls for cutting the money that pays for inmate crews to pick up the debris of consumer culture that clings to the road sides.
The state Department of Transportation pays the state Department of Correction $11.3 million a year for litter cleanup. The budget being considered in the state House would cut that amount by 20 percent.
Inmate crews patrol 6,400 miles of roadway each year, stuffing orange bags with trash. A funding cut could mean fewer crews and more of a mess.
Grays Creek resident Faye Jackson sees the value in the program.
“I think there's too much litter on the roads,” she said.
"These convicts need to be doing something … to be working! It's good for them," she added.
Authorities declined to speculate on how the cuts would affect the program.
“It’s a proposal right now, out of a committee,” said George Dudley, a spokesman for the Dept. of Correction. He said it’s too early to know what kind of impact it would have.
“It’s hard for me to say how it will affect roadside cleanups,” said George Kapetanakis, roadside beautification director for DOT.
If the inmates are not available, would more regular citizens keep our highways litter-free?
"It would help if people did decide to get involved a little more," said Lynn Hughes. Hughes coordinates the Adopt-A-Street program in Fayetteville. She has nearly 80 groups of volunteers that tidy up the roadsides.
“We're the ones who dirty it up, so I think we're the ones that should clean it," she said.
“I have a 70-year-old lady who does her street by herself,” Hughes added.
There are more than 6,000 Adopt-A-Highway volunteer groups statewide. Hughes thinks that number that might grow if inmate labor shrinks.
Terry Raeford, of Cumberland County, doesn’t see a clear cause and effect if the inmate program is cut. “People don’t have a genuine concern to get out and pick it up. They’re still gonna continue to throw it out,” he said.
“Citizens will just have to step it up and get out and pick up some trash,” he said.