Cleaning House

Response to upcoming county clean-up program is overwhelmingly positive

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Apr. 13, 2007 - Hopkins County Precinct 2 Commissioner Burke Bullock wasn't in the office this morning to toot his own horn, but he didn't need to be.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Hopkins County Beautification Committee member and Extension Agent Larry Spradlin talks to Cumby elementary students at a "Beautification Program" at the school this week. Spradlin, county environmental investigator Holly Rosamond and others talked to the children about the repercussions of littering and ways they can help clean up the environment.

There were plenty of others to do it for him.

Bullock got a lot of credit this morning for being the first commissioner in the county to hold clean-up days in his precinct, a concept so popular that, with the help of a government grant, all four commissioners are following suit this year.

Judging from the response and telephone calls they've received, the commissioners are expecting to see a lot of old appliances, tires and miscellaneous other junk being hauled next weekend for disposal at their precinct barns.

"We're just proud we're able to do this for the citizens of Hopkins County," said Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap.

The city of  Sulphur Springs has long held an annual Spring Clean-up in April, giving its citizens a one-week window of opportunity to dispose of refrigerators, stoves, water heaters and a wide assortment of other unwanted items without having to pay out the nose.

But the other 15,000 or so county residents who lived outside the city limits were left to their own devices to get rid of their oversized junk.

That is, until two years ago, when Precinct 2 Commissioner Bullock decided to hold a clean-up event at his precinct barn. It was so successful he repeated it last spring. Precinct 4 Commissioner Danny Evans followed suit last summer with another program that charged a nominal fee. Now, all four county commissioners are taking part.

The county's spring cleaning effort goes beyond the city's. For example, Sulphur Springs had to stop accepting refrigerators and other appliances that used freon as a coolant, but a government grant to the county will pay for extraction of the freon.

Also, the city has never been able to accept hazardous chemicals, including paint and pesticides. The grant to the county means citizens will be able to dispose of those substances, albeit only at Bullock's Precinct 2 site.

The county's commissioners are also accepting old automobile tires, although they generally agreed to limit the number of old tires they'll accept to 20 per person.

"I have had to put a limit on tires," Wisenbaker said, explaining that she'd gotten calls from retired dairy farmers who used to employ the old rubber to weight down tarps covering silage.

And the offer only extends to residential waste — no commercial haulers are allowed. Evans related that someone, apparently a commercial tire dealer, tried to dump about 100 used tires at his clean-up last summer.

"We're going to turn something like that down," he said. "But folks that have tires laying around and want to get rid of them in an environmentally firendly way, we'll take those."

And the collection sites aren't limited to residents of their respective precincts. Anyone county citizen — even those living in Sulphur Springs — can take their junk to any of the four collection points.

"If I'm closer to you and you live in Precinct 2 or 3, you can take it to my barn," Wisenbaker said.

Don't be surprised if the county keeps providing this service on an annual basis. Millsap seemed fairly confident that the county will be able to secure more grants in the future from the Ark-Tex Council of Governments, money that has also helped pay for renewed environmental enforcement and education efforts in the county.

"Hopkins County is on the front burner of getting these grants," Millsap said.

And the response to next weekend's clean-up has been so positive that the commissioners generally expect they'll continue with annual clean-up days in the future, government grant or no government grant.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Evans, for example, held a clean-up last summer that charged a nominal fee.

"I plan to have another clean-up day next year in Precinct 4," he said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Wisenbaker said the same.

"We're going to have a clean-up day once a year," she said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Patterson also said he'll consider it, but isn't ready to commit just yet.

"I want to see how it goes and see how receptive people are to it," he said.

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