JASPER, Tenn. — For the last two months, a local businessman has hounded the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen about addressing the town's perceived litter problem.
In February, Terry Kerlin, who said he was representing the Marion Chamber of Commerce, asked the board if the city is responsible for picking up litter within the city limits.
Mayor Paul Evans told him that it was every resident's responsibility to keep things clean, but he didn't think it was the city's job to do it for them.
"We [the city] don't have the resources," Evans said in February. "We don't have the manpower to put a litter crew out here on the streets doing it."
Kerlin returned to the board's March meeting this week to find out if the board had decided to do anything about the issue.
He said he heard Evans's answer last month, but he "never did hear from all the aldermens."
"Litter should be picked up," Alderman Paul "Mac" Bumpus said. "I don't know that it's [the city's] responsibility."
"Well, who else could it be?" Kerlin asked.
He said current volunteer litter programs are "just not enough," and that city leaders "know that."
Evans asked Kerlin if he would be in favor of a property tax increase to support a city-run litter program.
"Yes, I am," Kerlin replied. "It's not worth talking about if you [the board] don't assume the responsibility. I'm wasting my time. The Chamber of Commerce is wasting their time."
He said other nearby municipalities like Kimball, South Pittsburg and Whitwell use city workers to pick up litter.
Kerlin said he talked recently to Kimball Mayor Rex Pesnell who told him that when that town's workers aren't busy, their task is to pick up litter.
"And they do a good job," Kerlin said.
"I think it's our responsibility to come up with a plan," Alderman Josh Jennings said. "I don't know if we can afford to pay somebody to do it."
Alderman Jason Turner said the issue was something city leaders should study.
"I don't like to see a gum wrapper in the middle of the woods or somewhere, but I can't change the world," Vice Mayor Paul West said. "However, I will say there is probably something we could do as a board."
He said it's possible Jasper could institute a plan similar to Kimball's or come up with a different method.
Officials said they would have a plan together to address litter in the city limits by the board's regular meeting on June 10.
"There's no silver bullet to make all of this go away, but every little bit will help," Kerlin said. "Absolutely."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.