Keep Lowndes/Valdosta Beautiful has worked to live up to its name for about 20 years.
Under the direction of H. Aaron Strickland, KLVB coordinates clean-up activities from neighborhood beautification through Make-A-Difference Day and the Great American Cleanup to waterways in the Rivers Alive program.
KLVB coordinates Bring One to the Chipper, the annual program that keeps Christmas trees out of the landfill; recycling programs in South Georgia schools; recognition awards for beautiful businesses; electronics recycling events and more.
“From litter pickup to recycling education, KLVB strives to fulfill its mission statement: ‘to promote environmental stewardship and beautification by empowering individuals through public education,’” according to a recent KLVB statement. “That’s why you’ll find KLVB appearing at local events such as Arbor Day, the Azalea Festival, Earth Day and VSU’s The Happening.”
KLVB estimates it has removed 2.6 million pounds of trash and recycled electronics off the roadways since July 2000.
Strickland coordinates these efforts through an army of volunteers and an unpaid board of directors.
As executive director, Strickland is the only paid KLVB employee.
His job has just become more difficult.
Last month, the Lowndes County Commission gutted the KLVB budget by $25,000. Commissioners reduced KLVB’s $60,000 line item in its budget to an annual pay out of just $35,000.
The reduced budget means cuts in some programs and the loss of Strickland’s insurance. The entire budget has always included Strickland’s salary.
Prior to making the cut, county commissioners discussed cutting KLVB funding and implementing a new litter program during a May meeting.
Lowndes County Commissioner Scott Orenstein said during the meeting he receives a number of calls from county residents complaining about litter along the side of the roads. He said KLVB doesn’t seem to take care of illegal dumping.
“Evidently, KLVB is not meeting that need for us at all,” Orenstein said. “It’s almost misleading.”
The proposed new program would be more responsive to resident requests for litter cleanup in their neighborhoods, county officials argued during the May meeting.
The county voiced legitimate concerns. But why not simply increase funding and the purview of KLVB? Why not order county officials to enforce current litter codes?
KLVB has no enforcement powers.
And, why did the county choose to discuss KLVB funding during a public meeting? Lowndes County Commission work sessions and regular meetings usually involve simple up-down votes with little or no discussion about any topic.
We are not saying that business should be done behind closed doors. In fact, it is most disturbing that the commission just votes with little to no discussion in meeting after meeting. It begs the question when and where is the public’s business actually being deliberated?
Still the question remains, since nearly all other discussions seem to take place at some time other than in an open public meeting, why was this issue fully vetted in the open meeting?
Sadly, the KLVB budget cut smacks of politics.
It is more than a little ironic that Strickland unsuccessfully ran for a Lowndes County Commission seat last fall. The irony is county commissioners have not raised concerns about KLVB until this year – at least not during public meetings.
So, why now?
Litter is nothing new. It’s an ongoing problem. Litter pickup and litter laws do need more attention, more funding, more enforcement.
“Remember, litter will not pick up itself.”
Aaron Strickland has been using that quote for years, every time KLVB has to beg the public for volunteers.
It is a shame the county opted to focus on an unknown number of complaints rather than seriously consider the organization’s pleas for help.