Marysville Code Enforcement Officer Derek Hutchinson said residents may have noticed some unusually tall grass at abandoned and vacant properties around the city this spring, but those yards should be tidied up soon.
The issue stemmed from a problem the city had in finding a contractor to take care of such "nuisance mowing."
City code states grass should be no more than 9 inches tall. For anything higher, the city can send a contractor to mow the property.
Every year, the city requests bids for contractors to handle the mowing. This year, Hutchinson said, the city requested bids in March and got no response. It requested bids again in April and still got none.
"In my history of doing this, I've never, ever had that happen before. I, at least, get one or two quotes. We had zero quotes and grass was growing," he said.
Hutchinson already had notices out to property owners to take care of their grass, but he didn't have a contractor to mow in cases where property owners failed to comply.
"This year snuck up on us. We went straight from winter to summer. With the rain, grass grew really fast and we were already behind the eight ball," Hutchinson said, noting some yards had grass 2 to 3 feet tall.
"I contacted at least a dozen contractors that have placed bids in the last couple of years. Either they were booked up or weren't interested," Hutchinson said. "Luckily, this past week we found a contractor who was able to take care of all the mowings we had, who will be with us throughout this season now."
TAG Landscaping will be paid out of the $15,000 code enforcement budget, which includes mowing, sign removal and other related items.
When it comes to unkempt properties, Hutchinson actually wants to hear residents' complaints because it helps the city find properties it might otherwise not be aware of.
After property owners get a notice, they have five days to cut the grass. In cases of non-compliance, the city sends the contractor to mow the grass and bills the property owner for the cost of mowing as well as a $500 penalty. If the bill is not paid, it is assessed to the property taxes.
In the last 30 days, more than 200 notices have gone out, which Hutchinson said is unusually high. The notices went to a mix of unoccupied, occupied, residential and commercial properties. Most came into compliance on their own.
"This past week I sent out 25 properties for our contractor to mow," Hutchinson said. Eight had been taken care of by the time the contractor arrived.
An ordinance passed by City Council last year has helped reduce the number of unkempt properties.
"When I came aboard in 2013, I started researching and wrote an ordinance for a registration of abandoned properties," Hutchinson said.
The ordinance requires banks and other lienholders to register foreclosed properties with the city and maintain them according to code.
"That registration lets us know who is responsible for it and who is supposed to be taking care of it. It requires them to have some type of maintenance company to oversee it," Hutchinson said.
"So far it's been going real smooth here. Right now I believe we have 47 properties registered, and that's just this year," Hutchinson said.
Of the 17 properties whose grass was cut by the city contractor last week, banks responsible for four of those have registered with the city and will assume maintenance responsibility.
"We try to be as proactive as we can," said Hutchinson, who is the city's only inspector for property maintenance and code enforcement. "I try to urge the citizens to call it in. It's not a bother or burden to call us. That's what we're here for. By calling us, we can try to get it resolved faster and so they don't have to worry about it."
Residents who have a code violation to report can call Hutchinson at 937-645-7362.