Highlands Police Department has litter in its sights

Though the Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the town holds litter pick-ups a couple times a year, it’s clear twice a year isn’t enough. Highlands’ byways are consistently littered with garbage.

At a recent Town Board meeting, citizen Griffin Bell implored the town to do something about the abundance of litter on NC 28 south even though much of the problem on that road is outside the town limits.

The Town Board didn’t have a workable solution at the time, but since then Highlands Police Chief Andrea Holland has devised a way to deal with litter.

At the May Town Board meeting, Chief Holland said she has been working with the Macon County Probation Office to address the problem of litter and trash on Highlands’ roadways by working with the county’s Community Service Program.

Community Service is a state-mandated program for people on probation for crimes committed.

“We’ve agreed and have entered into a contract to deal with those on probation in Highlands and outside the town limits in the Highlands Township who have been ordered to do community service,” said Chief Holland. “Right now, they have been traveling down to Franklin to do that community service and if it’s a DWI, then it’s hard for them to get there because they don’t have a license. This makes it more difficult for them to get their community service hours in.” 

So, working with Community Service the Highlands Police Department has come up with a plan so probationers can get their service hours in by washing the outside of town vehicles, but mostly picking up litter.

“The main thing we are most excited about is that they will pick up trash along the roadways in and out of Highlands – NC 28, NC 106 and the Franklin and Cashiers roads — but just within the town limits of Highlands,” she said.

Holland said the program won’t take up much of the department’s time; officers will instruct the probationers where to go and will sign off on the hours they log in.

“Other than checking on them every 30 minutes, we won’t have to watch them to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. This isn’t like the inmate program. We just need to make sure they are there,” she said. 

The department and the probationers will sign an agreement saying they will be honest, and both will acknowledge the number of hours they worked which the Police Department must sign off on.

In addition, the department will provide the trash bags, the vests, signage, everything needed to get the job done. Afterwards, the department will pick up the trash bags and take them to the town shed for disposal. 

“The benefits are that it will help us deal with the trash problem on the roadways,” said Holland. “We’ve all seen the trash on the roads. There are a lot of people coming into town, who don’t have an investment in Highlands; the beauty we see is the beauty they are leaving so I think this will help us.”

Holland said though the main focus will be on the main roads, if the department is notified of side streets with litter those can be done, too.

“But to start, we will stick to the main roads until we get word of other areas that need attention,” she said.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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