By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” certainly was true in 2018 as the Shelby County Animal Shelter benefited from 700 pounds of aluminum cans collected from the ditches in Shelby County.

“It aggravates me and a lot of other people to see trash on the sides of the roads in Shelby County,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “As a homeowner just outside Jackson Center, we see a lot of litter on the state routes.”

The Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce recently recognized the Sheriff’s Office for their work program which has inmates picking up trash in Sidney and along the roads in the county.

“When we received the award, it got me wondering how much trash do we pick up every year,” said Lenhart, who was surprised by the award at the annual awards dinner. He expressed his apprciation to the chamber for the award..

Lenhart said there are three types of littering — all which a person can receive a citation for.

“At least once a month we get a call about a littering offense where a person cleans up their garage or house and then they just dump the trash along the road. We’ll find furniture, grass clippings and other trash,” he said.

This type of offense, said Lenhart, is a fourth-degree misdemeanor and can lead to jail time.

The second type of littering is where a person rolls down their vehicle window and tosses a fast food wrapper, paper cup or other type of trash out the window. This is a minor misdemeanor and the person could be fined $100.

The third type of littering deals with insecure loads. This includes trash or items blowing off a trailer because it wasn’t secured on the trailer. It could also include gravel or even beans and corn which fly off a farm wagon. This is also a minor misdemeanor with a $100 fine.

Lenhart said deputies will go through the trash looking for identification such as a letter so they can find the person responsible for making the mess.

The work program where the inmates clean up the litter is in its fourth year at the Sheriff’s Office. Lenhart said during his previous tenure as sheriff’ the program was used also.

The Sheriff’s Office has contracts with the state of Ohio and the city of Sidney for the litter pickup and other projects.

“The deputy works with the director of parks and recreation (Duane Gaier) in the city of Sidney,” said Lenhart. “The inmates clean up 20 city parks, walk the paths and do work at Brookside and the diamonds at Custenborder Field. Where there are soccer nets, they’ll trim around them.

“They trim around areas where a lawnmower traditionally can’t go,” he said. “This is a win-win-win for everyone involved.”

The inmates who participate in the program are non-violent offenders, said Lenhart.

“They will also go to Graceland Cemetery and trim around the 8,000 headstones there,” said Lenhart.

The contract with the state of Ohio calls for the inmates to clean up state highways.

“In 2018m they cleaned up 358 miles of highway,” said Lenhart. “It’s cost effective when the inmates do the work.”

The state, he said, also has an adopt-a-highway program where businesses and families adopt a portion of the highway and clean it up several times a year.

Three deputies have been involved with the work program, said Lenhart. During the eight to nine month contract with the state of Ohio, the inmates worked 4,611 hours in 2018.

“They cleaned up 7 1.2 tons of trash and debris in 2018,” said Lenhart. “They found more than 100 tires in the ditches. They collected 700 pounds of aluminum cans which were donated to the animal shelter.

“Most of the cans were beer cans so there’s a problem of drinking and driving,” he said.

In addition to the trash pickup, the inmates also help with other projects in the county.

“They provide ‘muscle power’ for different events, such as setting up and clean up for the Shelby County Fair before it begins, setting up at the Christmas Community Dinner, cleaning up around the courthouse at Christmas and projects sponsored by the Shelby County Historical Society.”

They also work with the township trustees for trash pickup, said Lenhart.

The inmates also clean up Pearl and Glenn Cemeteries and also at some of the 19th century cemeteries such as Lennox. Pioneer and Strum.

“They also worked at the jail,” said Lenhart. “They do food prep, laundry and clean the floors.

“I get phones from people who say they like seeing the inmates out cleaning up the roads,” he said.

But the message Lenhart has for Shelby County residents and people traveling through the county is simple.

“Please don’t litter,” he said. “We could find other things for the inmates to do if they weren’t picking up trash.”

By Melanie Speicher

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.