Rutherford County is opening a special court, starting this week, to streamline how the county deals with environmental issues.
Six departments will refer their citations to the court, including Fire and Rescue, Building Codes, Animal Control, Solid Waste, Engineering and Emergency Management.
Under the current system, the accused offender and the county agent who cited them often have to spend hours in court waiting for their specific case to be brought up.
The new process changes that. Now there will be a specific time and day for environmental violations to be presented before a judge — the first Wednesday of every month.
Hannah Bleam is a spokesperson for the Rutherford County Solid Waste Department. She says the new court could create a cultural change about environmental issues.
"If people know that they're going to be cited for something and it will follow through in court, it could potentially create an environment in our county that understands when you do it there is an actual impact," Bleam said.
The court will cover legal matters related to vacant buildings, illegal burning and neglected property.
The environmental court is also an attempt to address an influx of illegal dumping Rutherford County has experienced in recent years.