Springfield behind on mowing vacant lots

The city of Springfield spends approximately $88,000 per year to enforce tall grass complaints and mow abandoned lots, but the program is behind this summer due to recent rainy weather.

The city has mowed approximately 700 properties this year, including 466 tall grass violation orders. The remainder are abandoned or vacant lots, according to Stephen Thompson, the city’s code enforcement manager.

Last year, the city’s code enforcement department initiated approximately 2,911 tall grass cases from complaints. Through Friday, they’ve initiated approximately 1,877 cases through complaints.

The city hires contractors each year to mow approximately 360 abandoned lots about three to four times per year in Springfield, as well as many vacant lots and properties with weed complaints.

“We’ll stay a month behind until the weather starts to dry,” said Shannon Meadows, the city’s community development director. “We can’t control the rain.”

It’s a period of the summer where the tall weeds are more noticeable, Meadows said. The city typically catches up in July when there is less rain, Meadows said.

“We’re just chasing our tail (right now),” Meadows said.

Last year, the city mowed approximately 3,100 properties, including both abandoned lots and tall grass complaints.

The money comes from the city’s Community Development Block Grant fund. They do not receive state funding, despite many of the properties having been forfeited to the state.

“$88,000 isn’t enough, but it’s what we have,” Meadows said.

Springfield resident Janet Daniels has been trying to get the city to mow the lot across the street from her home at 624 Amelia St. for several weeks. She called the city’s code enforcement officers in early May about the vacant lot, and they told her contractors were four weeks behind.

As of last week, the lot still hadn’t been mowed, she said.

“It’s just a big mess and there’s nothing that looks worse than tall grass,” Daniels said.

The abandoned lots which do not have an owner or have been forfeited to the state are mowed once every four to six weeks, three to four times per year, Meadows estimated.

A tall grass violation can take up to three and a half weeks to mow because the owner must be notified, Meadows said. After an owner is notified once during a season, the city can continue to mow the grass on schedule. However, during that process, the weeds continue to grow, Meadows said.

The city encourages property owners with unmowed lots near their home to report them to code enforcement at 937-324-7385.

The property on Amelia Street has been vacant for about five years, Daniels said, and the home was recently demolished. Daniels and her husband used to mow the property, but are no longer able to mow it.

“I see lots like this everywhere,” Daniels said. “When they tell me they don’t have the money, I don’t believe it. I believe you can take money from somewhere and make your city look better.”

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