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Ferris gets tough on illegal dumpster use

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
FERRIS — Illegal dumping in downtown dumpsters is about to come to an end in Ferris.

'The ordinance has some teeth in it,' said City Attorney Richard Wilson at Monday night's city council meeting. 'Once the word gets out that people are going to be prosecuted…'

The discussion occurred when Charles Hatfield, representing the Downtown Association, approached the council for assistance with the trash problem. 'The problem is that out of town people are dumping,' said Hatfield, 'and there's no place for merchants to put their trash.'

Hatfield suggested the city purchase and post more specific signs citing the city's ordinance, which allows for a maximum fine of $200, and then increase police patrol of the area. Wilson did not disagree with the suggestion, but said he felt enforcement would be the real key.

'(Police) have to have a call from someone who has seen (the dumping),' Wilson said. 'Merchants could provide the city with valuable assistance (by placing a call).' He went on to say whenever the State of Texas cracks down on illegal dumping, habitual violators stop.

'I've called in on a lot of dumping,' said Mayor Jimmie Birdwell, 'But they're gone when the police department gets there.'

'Get the license plate,' said Council member Jim Parks.

'I've done it,' responded Birdwell. 'I had it run, found out where he lived. I told him if I catch him again it will cost $200. I can issue a warrant for arrest.'

Wilson agreed with Birdwell's statement. 'No doubt about it,' he said. 'But a ticket is their promise to appear. I know they're not hanging around to eat hamburgers. Video cameras would help, or with reasonable prudence, a citizen's arrest.'

Chief of Police Jeff Cottongame volunteered that the city's new code enforcement officer could be called upon to assist with the problem. Public Works Director Charlie Joe James agreed. 'It's one of the discussions we've had,' James said. 'That and just piling trash in the front yard. If he catches them, he has the authority to write a ticket.'

Hatfield also provided the council with information about trash cans and park benches that the Downtown Association has been investigating. 'The trash cans are $599,' he said. 'And I don't even want to tell you how much the park benches cost. We're not sure where the budget is going to come in.'

Council member Lori Perkins suggested that the association contact the school. 'Maybe there's a metals class or something,' she said, 'They could let the kids build one as a class project.'

Hatfield closed his presentation by assuring the council that the downtown merchants will do their part to assist the city with its cleanup effort.

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