(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON - "Join the crowd/Sikeston proud/Do not Litter" read the signs going up around Sikeston - and city officials are serious.
"If everybody takes care of their own responsibilities and their own property, it won't be a big burden," said Mayor Mike Marshall, who showed one of the signs during Thursday's Sikeston area Chamber of Commerce meeting.
"We want the town to clean itself up a bit," Marshall continued. "We have people coming in for the rodeo and we want to present a good image. We need to just try and get a little community pride going. A lot of adults need to set an example for the kids - the adults can be as bad as the kids."
Marshall said he often sees people just dropping their trash on the ground out at the sports complex. "Somebody's got to pick that up," he said, "and it will probably end up being city employees and that costs money."
With the new focus on cleaning up town, those who insist on breaking littering laws may find it costs them money more directly.
"Tickets will be issued," said Director of Public Safety Drew Juden. "Obviously this is just an effort to make our community look better, to clean up our community.
"It's like any other traffic ticket," he continued. "You'll have to appear before the judge, and it will be up to the judge and the court as far as the fine associated with that ticket. The average right now seems to be right around $100."
While the littering laws are always enforceable, "It's something that we're going to make our officers more aware of," Juden said. "We're very serious about making our community look better...Hopefully people will take the time and find the trash receptacle as opposed to just opening the window and throwing something out."
Marshall said the signs and enforcement are only part of the plan.
Linda Lowes, director of governmental services, and Missy Marshall, executive director of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce, are working together to organize a "yard of the month" contest for neighborhoods.
"We are also going to recognize these business along Main and Malone that have fixed their properties up," Marshall said.
As for those commercial property owners that let weeds grow up on their property, Marshall hopes to "shame them into fixing up their property a bit."
In addition to presenting our best image for rodeo visitors, Marshall said a clean town is important to bringing jobs to Sikeston.
"Improving our image makes us attractive to these industries coming into town," Marshall said. "There are a lot of positive things happening and if we clean up the town it will be that much better."
Officials agreed increasing awareness will do a great deal to help the problem. "They don't even think about what they're doing," said Tom Bridger, public works director.
The signs, officials hope, will serve as reminders. "We've got somewhere between 30-35 locations picked out so far," Bridger said, "and as we go along I'm sure we'll find other sites we'll want to put them. The higher traffic and more utilized public areas will be our initial ones that we're trying to install at this time. We'll try to hit those areas first."
Bridger said they are also planning to encourage business to place no litter signs as well. "That way everybody gets 'Sikeston Proud,'" he said.