Commissioners Divided Over Litter Abatement Program

Over the past several weeks, hundreds of you have told us about problems you're having with illegal dumping in your neighborhoods. Since we began our series "Trashing East Texas" in January, there has been a lot of talk among Smith County leaders about the issue. Now, at least one solution is keeping commissioners divided.

Big trash, small trash, and everything in between, the Smith County Litter Abatement Program deals with it. The officer is Danny Brasher, under Constable Frank Creath, who received a grant from the East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG).

But some commissioners are not satisfied with how Creath is handling it.

"The dumping issues are not being taken care of," Precinct 4 Commissioner JoAnn Hampton said. "And you guys are running these stories every day. And so the commissioners have got to be proactive."

Today, commissioners, including Hampton, voted 3-2 to move the litter abatement program from Creath's precinct to another precinct -- that of Constable Dennis Taylor.

"I want to emphasize the fact that there's not a problem with the program."

Creath is not happy with the move. He started the program just eight months ago and says he hasn't had enough time to fix all of its problems. But Hampton says it's too late; she's received too many complaints from citizens.

"My personal belief is that JoAnn Hampton is maybe exaggerating the number of calls that she actually had," Creath said.

"When we're having someone stand up in front of you and say, well, you can't tell me what to do and I can do whatever I want to do, then that's not putting the citizens first," Hampton said. "Constable Creath is not being part of our team."

But the question remains: Will the trash problem be solved by simply moving the program from one precinct to another?

"In my opinion, the grant has been administered very well at Constable Creath's office," County Judge Becky Dempsey said.

She was in the minority, voting against moving the program out of Creath's precinct. This afternoon, Commissioner Hampton asked Officer Brasher to report to Constable Taylor tomorrow. That may cause the litter abatement program to lose its grant money.

There's another problem that may make it harder for Smith County residents to get rid of their trash. April 2 is the county's scheduled annual cleanup day. You can take your garbage various dumpsters for free. In the past, it has been organized by Constable Creath. However, that's no longer the case, now that Creath is losing the litter abatement program. That means the cleanup day may be in jeopardy.

Julie Tam, reporting.