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Scott County looks to shift meth cleanup costs to offenders

Wes Bunch • Dec 30, 2012 at 9:37 AM

GATE CITY — The Scott County Board of Supervisors is set to vote on an ordinance next month that would hold methamphetamine offenders responsible for the cost of cleaning up their cook sites.

The vote will be held following a public hearing at the board’s Jan. 9 meeting.

If passed, the ordinance will shift the financial burden associated with properly cleaning a meth cook site from the county and sheriff’s office onto those who are convicted of manufacturing the drug.

“I didn’t realize the cost associated with the cleanups until I had seen some of the numbers,” Scott County BOS Chairman Danny Mann said. “It’s very expensive to go in to do the cleanup after those things happen, so the cost of that needs to be passed on to the offender. So that’s what we’re hoping to do here after we have the public hearing and get through that.”

Scott County Sheriff John Puckett, who has advocated for the ordinance, shared the sentiments expressed by Mann.

“The cost of these cleanups isn’t something that should be placed on the back of the taxpayers, it needs to go on the ones that are doing it.” Puckett said. “Right now that’s not the case because the county has to use its money to pay for it.”

Puckett said his office currently has an annual budget of $2,500 to cover the cost of meth lab cleanups.

The cost of hiring a contractor to completely clean a site where a meth lab was found can run anywhere from $1,500 to nearly $10,000 depending on the size of the lab, Puckett said.

“We’ve been lucky,” Puckett said. “The first couple of years we started having problems with meth we had several lab cleanups, but we didn’t have the budget so the county had to pick the tab up. Then they added a meth lab cleanup line item and so far we’ve been lucky and not had that much meth.”

Puckett credited the drop in meth labs to several arrests and convictions in the past year for meth manufacturing and conspiracy that landed a number of offenders in state prison.

Puckett said the ordinance is needed, though, because the discovery of only a few meth sites could deplete the cleanup fund.

Scott County Attorney Sally Kegley said the proposed ordinance is based closely on legislation passed by the General Assembly in July 2012 and would allow the county to add cleanup fees onto any fines levied against someone convicted of cooking meth.

Kegley said the ordinance would only impact the property’s owner if that person was the one actually convicted of the offense.

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