Mowing jobs cut into city works department schedule
Tonganoxie has a growth problem, but it’s not the kind the city wants.
This year, city employees are faced with dealing with an extraordinary amount of tall grass violations.
“This has been an exceptional year for mowing,” Kathy Bard, assistant city administrator said.
In 2008, the city acted on 11 complaints about grass that was in violation of city code, which requires grass to be kept at under a foot tall. Of those 11, the city sent eight of the property owners letters and ended up mowing one property twice. As of June 26, there have been 62 grass complaints and 62 letters sent. Of those complaints, the city partially or entirely mowed 19 properties.
These properties have to be added to the public works department’s regular mowing schedule of city property. Butch Rodgers, city superintendent, told the Tonganoxie City Council during a July 20 budget meeting that was adding more work for his crews.
“Those guys spend basically 40 hours a week mowing grass,” Rodgers said.
A majority of the grass violations are fixed quickly by the property owners once they are informed of the infraction.
But sometimes the properties aren’t owned by individual residents.
About 16 percent of the code violations were a result of grass growing too long on foreclosed or vacant proprieties in the city. If the city is not able to contact the company that owns the property, it is then put on the public works department’s schedule to be mowed.
When the city has to mow a property, Bard said it charges up to $80 an hour to bring the property back to code. The city charges $30 for equipment costs, $30 for man-hours and $20 if weeding is necessary. If the project is too large for the city to handle with its equipment, it is contracted out. The city pays the contractor and then bills the property owner.
The bills are sent to the property owners for reimbursement. If the money is not recouped from the owners, it is added to that property’s taxes.
Bard said so far the city has sent about $7,000 in bills.
Kent Heskett, utilities superintendent, said the weather has been a contributing factor to the increase in grass violations.
“This has been a year with a lot of rain,” he said. “Normally, this time of year the grass is done growing, but not this year.”
Heskett is in charge of scheduling the city’s mowing projects.
Bard has another reason for the increase in violations. She said because there have been so few building permits, Danny Dodge, the city’s building and code inspector, has had more time to find code violators.
Councilmember Tom Putthoff said during the July 20 budget meetings that he was in favor of increasing the fees associated with code violations, especially for repeat offenders.
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