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Knox: City, county cleaner but there is more to do

By By Chris Allen Baker / staff writer
Apri1 29, 2002
As coordinator of the Keep Meridian-Lauderdale County Beautiful Commission, Beverly Knox spends much of her time trying to keep the city and county free from litter.
The commission is affiliated with Keep Mississippi Beautiful and Keep America Beautiful. Knox talked about her work in a recent meeting with The Meridian Star editorial board.
The Meridian Star: Please tell us a little about what your mission is and what you would like to see accomplished.
Knox: Keep America Beautiful is an educational program to make the public aware of litter prevention methods and integrated ways of handling our waste. Our goal is to change the behavior pattern of people who litter. We are hoping to be doing that through education with our young people in hopefully rearing litter-free adults.
The Star: What actions in litter prevention are you taking?
Knox: We are aware of the fact that our city is littered. We promote cleanups and encourage people to clean up because we realize that picking up or cleaning up litter is the short-term solution. Long-term is education. I have all kinds of promotional material that reminds people that it is against the law to litter that we try to put in people's hands. We have litter bags, pocket ashtrays for smokers, coloring books, bags and gloves if you want to help.
The Star: Are there any areas of the city that tend to be worse off than others as far as litter is concerned?
Knox: There probably is, but I never look at it that way. We just go to whatever area where the litter is and do what we can do there.
The Star: How do you determine where clean up crews go?
Knox: Nobody is paid by the city of Meridian to pick up litter. It is not a job title. I basically rely on the help we receive through volunteer and inmate labor from the police and sheriff departments.
We have a complaint line and we encourage people to call 485-1996. When a complaint comes in, I basically transfer it to where it needs to go.
The Star: How are you funded and supported?
Knox: It is the only program with the city of Meridian that receives funding from the city and county and is a county-wide program. We have a budget of about $52,000 and we have a staff of just me and a secretary.
The Star: What are some of the ways you are enforcing anti-litter laws?
Knox: A lot of people don't litter in front of police cars. The (officer) has to see them do it. We have had people call and tell me they'd like to be able to arrest somebody. Basically the (city) ordinance we have in place says if someone is caught littering they can be fined. It is a graduated penalties kind of procedure. You can get jail time upon any third conviction.
The Star: Can people report others who litter?
Knox: We have I Spy Litterbug' cards. We have them in different places, like where you pay your water bill, and you can put them in your car. If you see someone litter, it has on the card the place where you saw it, description of the car and tag number. (Meridian Police Chief) Benny Dubose told me littering is a crime so he doesn't have any problem with running their tag. We write a letter and send a litter bag to that person. For some people, a letter is all they need if they think someone is watching them.
The Star: What kind of reaction do you get in the schools when you make presentations?
Knox: We talk about our comprehensive clean community ordinance and we have booklets in easy-to-teach form. They include litter lessons and tell what we can and cannot do. It breaks it down so they can understand what we mean by not littering.
The Star: What other community programs do you have in place?
Knox: If we can explain to young people that it's important to preserve our Earth, it will instill a sense of pride for where they live and they won't litter. As a part of that, our Environmental Education Youth Mini-Grants is something we use where we awarded $7,225 to youth organizations that applied for funds to help with environmental projects.
The Star: What is the most enjoyable part of your position?
Knox: I believe the most rewarding thing about this position is truly being able to educate children. We've done some amazing things in trying to arouse awareness of litter. I believe in 12 years we have some second-year college students who are litter free because they were touched by the program.

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