Sussex touts progress in effort to cut roadside litter

GEORGETOWN — Trash talk in Sussex County is on the march toward beautifying areas along roadways.

A contractual agreement with Delaware’s Department of Correction and a partnership with DOC and the Department of Transportation that targets roadside litter and trash is producing noticeable results, Michael Costello, the county’s governmental affairs manager, said in a July 30 report to county council.

In early June 2018, Sussex County Council agreed to a memorandum of understanding in partnership with DOC and DelDOT that allocates county funds to augment regular cleanup efforts already undertaken by the state on more than 2,300 miles of roadway in southern Delaware.

“Our partners are happy with this agreement,” said Mr. Costello in his six-month update. “It’s working out well. We’re getting some areas cleaned up.”

Under the agreement, Sussex County will pay up to $120,000 annually to cover overtime costs for Delaware correctional officers to supervise inmate work crews on supplemental cleanup jobs.
County councilman Irwin G. Burton asked if “this is just the trash that our contract does; they (DOC) still are running two other vans?”

That is the case, Mr. Costello said, noting that “these cleanup efforts are above and beyond the cleanup activities that are already undertaken by DOC.”

For January to June 2019, the total cost to the county was $26,282. That averages out to about $105 per road mile.

Michael Costello

“The last six-month period (July to December 2018) was just about over $150 per road mile. So those averages are coming down,” Mr. Costello said.
The clean-up program is driven by the public. Citizens can make a request at several locations on the county’s web page: www.sussexcountyde.gov. There is a link to “Request for Litter Clean-up” at the bottom of the website main page.

“By simply filling out the little bit of information, that will help us identify where the location is where they see the trash and debris on the road,” said Mr. Costello. “Once they submit that, our staff combine those, and we form a weekly spreadsheet that we send over the DOC. They put it on their work list, and they get out there and provide us feedback on when they get those areas cleaned up.”

Mr. Costello added that DOC alerts DelDOT of the areas that get cleaned up. “A lot of times you’ll see their trash piled up at a street sign or at a certain location. They notify the (DelDOT district) yard. DelDOT goes and picks that stuff up and disposes of it at no additional cost to us,” said Mr. Costello.

The number of requests and cleanup activity increased sharply in the sixth-month period from January through June 2019 compared to the first six months, July to December 2018.

Requests jumped from 41 to 177, miles of roadway spiked from 82.5 to 251 and the number of bags of trash collected more than doubled, from 958 the last six months of 2018 to 2,263 in the first half of 2019.

The only categorical decrease was in the number of tires collected in these cleanup activities, down to 85 from 142 in July to December 2018.
Categorically, March 2019 was the busiest month, with 67 requests, 60.2 miles, 579 bags of trash and 65 tires collected. In June, 60.8 roadway miles were covered, resulting in 524 bags of trash with only four requests.

“March again was the highest because it just seemed to have the highest activity; people coming out, getting out and about in the community … noticing the trash in and around the roadways and making those requests,” said Mr. Costello.

“It’s working out well, I think,” said Sussex County Council president Michael Vincent.

“So, to this point, the MOU seems to work out very well,” Mr. Costello said. “It’s received well by the community and effective in getting some of these areas cleaned up that would otherwise have to wait for normal and ordinary methods to get things cleaned up.”

“Thank you for continuing to support this,” Mr. Costello added.

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