Local News

Eyes in the sky will watch illegal dumpers

— Soon, they’ll be watching if you illegally dump tires, couches and oil bottles in public places.

“We have ordered cameras,” said Bob Diefendorf, project manager. When Highlands County’s new geographic information systems coordinator starts, illegal dumpsites in the county will be mapped.

Scofflaws have ignored the warnings, Diefendorf said.

“We put signs out at Olivia Drive in Avon Park, one of the worst ones. They continued to dump there. Finally, the signs were just taken out,” Diefendorf said.

The most frequent sites are on Riverdale Road in Sebring and Avon Park, Heron Street and Hammock Road in Sebring Hills subdivision, and Lake Josephine Drive near the Orange Blossom Country Club.

The county has also tried public service advertising like refrigerator magnets and electronic billboards. “We just paid for more,” Diefendorf said.

In the past, the county has posted a camera at the hot spots and caught dumpers. However, videos aren’t as useful without time-and-date stamps, so new digital cameras were ordered.

“The new version downloads to the cloud,” Diefendorf said, meaning video data is sent by the camera to satellites, then recorded by Google, Microsoft or a similar server.

Illegal dumping isn’t necessary, Diefendorf said. “We want people to understand that refrigerators and tires and other white goods can just be put out by the curb. You can call (Progressive Waste Solutions) and they’ll pick that up.”

Tree limbs must be sawed to six-foot lengths and bundled; tires are limited to six per year.

“If it’s more than six per year, they’ll charge you for it,” Diefendorf said. “The biggest problem we have is tires.”

Paint and hazardous chemicals can be taken to the recycling office, 6000 Skipper Road, five days a week.

Over the years, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office has found old boats, yard debris and household garbage with mail that can be used to track down the owner, said Lt. John Barcinas, supervisor of the sheriff’s criminal investigation division.

Violators are prosecuted. “It goes by weight,” Barcinas said. “If we find we locate something, we have to weigh it.”

Florida littering laws are punishable by $100 fines for non-criminal violations. However, depending on the size of the litter, violators can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony.

For trash pickups, call Progressive Waste Solutions at 655-0005.