GULFPORT — The volunteers who routinely swoop down, garbage bags in hand, into targeted areas of town to pick up litter may find fewer discarded objects to fill their packs in the future.
At least that's the hope of City Council, which on Tuesday voted 4-1 to change its litter ordinance to increase fines for littering by $50.
An uncontested fine will now be $143 (up from $93) and a contested fine, which includes court costs, will be $188 (up from $138).
Council member Jennifer Salmon, who cast the dissenting vote, said the city should get serious about signs and enforcing the ordinance before increasing fines.
She said she's afraid if the fines are too high, the police would think twice about levying them.
But council member Sam Henderson, who initially requested increasing fines for littering, said he wants the tickets written for the maximum amount so everyone gets the message that litter is not acceptable in Gulfport.
"We grew up with the generation of Woodsy the Owl and all the litter campaigns they did on Saturday morning cartoons.
"Media's so expanded now; it's hard to reach people. That lesson is clearly not continuing," Henderson said.
Vice Mayor David Hastings successfully lobbied to have the words "cigarette butts" included in the ordinance, which now defines litter as "garbage, trash, waste or other refuse."
"Ninety to 95 percent of the litter picked up is cigarette butts," he said.
In related business, the council unanimously amended another ordinance that deals with litter — in the form of unsolicited fliers, pamphlets and similar items — deposited on private property.
Solicitors now have to register with the Police Department and must leave materials only between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The expanded ordinance bans fliers and other objects from being left at an unoccupied home unless the owner or occupant has granted permission.
The ordinances will have second and final readings in January.