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New Scott ordinance: Make the meth, clean up the mess

Wes Bunch • Jan 9, 2013 at 9:34 AM

GATE CITY — Those convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine in Scott County will now have to pay for the cost of cleaning up their cook sites after the board of supervisors passed an ordinance to that effect Wednesday morning.

The board voted unanimously to implement the new measure, which goes into effect immediately.

Modeled off a statute passed last year by state lawmakers, the ordinance shifts 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.

The ordinance was backed by Scott County Sheriff John Puckett and other local law enforcement.

Scott County BOS Chairman Danny Mann said passing the ordinance was a “no-brainer” for both the county and its taxpayers.

“If you’re going to be in the business of making meth and you get busted, you should be responsible for paying the cleanup costs,” Mann said. “I like that the whole board voted unanimously to make that decision, and it shouldn’t be up to the taxpayer to clean up an illegal meth operation. It should be the offender doing it instead of the taxpayers.”

Supervisor Joe Horton said the ordinance was needed after the state and federal governments eliminated funding for meth site cleanup operations nearly two years ago.

“The state used to provide money for cleanup, and they don’t do that anymore,” Horton said. “If you were a property owner out here and spilled oil in a creek you’d be responsible for the cleanup, so why should they be exempt when they know they are willfully breaking the law.”

Since that funding was cut, the sheriff’s office has received approximately $2,500 in its budget each year to hire contractors to clean up meth cook sites.

Puckett said the cost of cleanup can cost as little as $1,000 for a “one-pot” cook site or as much as $3,000 — or more — for larger meth labs.

Puckett said the county has not found an active cook site in nearly two years thanks in large part to several arrests and convictions for meth manufacturing and conspiracy that landed a number of offenders in state prison.

“He said we haven’t had an issue in the last few years with it, but the potential is there and other counties are having issues with it,” Hood said. “The cost of cleaning it can be very expensive, and since it’s illegal, the people doing it should be responsible for it.”

Scott County Attorney Sally Kegley said the ordinance will allow the county to add the cleanup fees onto any fines and court costs levied against someone convicted of cooking meth.

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

Scott County is the first locality in Southwest Virginia to implement the ordinance since it was made into law last year.

In Tennessee, including Sullivan County, law enforcement officials suit up themselves and neutralize the materials in question instead of hiring contractors to perform the cleanup.

The lab and its components are then transported to a secure location by the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force before they are eventually picked up for disposal by a hazardous material contractor.

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