District Attorney Coty Wamp, Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp, and County Commissioner Jeff Eversole, from left, announce a collaboration between county alternative sentencing and roadside trash pickup
County Mayor Weston Wamp and District Attorney Coty Wamp announced a new collaboration between the county and General Sessions Court to double the number of roadside trash pickup assignments, tonnage and road miles in 2024 fiscal year.
“What about our roads?” asked Mayor Wamp. “This county should be beautiful.”
Roadside litter pickup has dropped by 50 percent since 2016, Mayor Wamp said. The mayor and the district attorney pledged to bring the number up to 2,000 assignments and 6,000 road miles.
“We can’t give the assignments and that’s the part that’s broken down,” Mayor Wamp said. DA Wamp and the Sessions Court will add more assignments into criminal plea arrangements, it was stated.
DA Wamp said that violent criminals are still her focus, but these offenders are at the other end of the spectrum, “stuff that crowds our jails,” she said.
DA Wamp said the joint goal targets “mistake offenders,” who need one chance to prove they can be productive members of society.
Director of Corrections Chris Jackson said the county pays $90 per day to incarcerate and $2 per day for trash pickup.
DA Wamp and the county mayor share exactly the same constituency, she said. Collaboration on this issue makes sense and more issues will soon follow, she said.
Administrator of County General Services Christy Cooper said funding for roadside trash pickup comes from three places. Hamilton County used only 10 percent of its TDOT litter contract for $293,000 in 2022, she said. The rest of the money comes from a state litter grant for $128,000 per year, and a contract with the city of Chattanooga for $60,000 to be used within city limits. More assignments mean the county can use these funds to their full potential, she said.
County Mayor Wamp credited County Commissioner Steve Highlander for exposing the problem.
“It’s really hard to get the big things right if you don’t get the little things right first,” said Mayor Wamp.
He said, “Since 2016, Hamilton County’s community service alternative sentencing program has steadily dropped to half of its prior levels, leaving many roads throughout our beautiful county littered with trash. I appreciate the District Attorney’s willingness to partner with county government to clean up our community while reducing overcrowding in the jail.
“We were elected to bring a new approach into local government and that starts with doing the small things well. I want to thank County Commissioners Jeff Eversole, Steve Highlander, and others for bringing new attention to this issue in recent weeks.”
“Not all criminal offenders belong in the jail. My office will begin to offer more alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders in the form of litter pick up days,” said District Attorney Wamp. “Hamilton County already offers the public works program that allows low level offenders the opportunity to pick up litter on state highways and local roads instead of incarceration. As the District Attorney, I have asked my office to utilize this alternative sentencing program more often.”
“I’m glad to see any effort that will result in lessening the burden of an overcrowded jail. Very few of our citizens ought to be sentenced to spend time there,” said Public Defender Steve Smith. “Incarceration is dangerous, expensive and harmful to families, employers and taxpayers. Having less trash along the roadways is a pleasant ancillary benefit of rethinking over-incarceration.”