Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TOP STORY >> Cabot gets out of cutting grass

Leader staff writer

Cabot’s new tall grass, weed, trash and general exterior untidiness ordinance passed the city council Monday night, but without the emergency clause, which means residents have 30 days to clean up or be fined.

The main reason for the new ordinance, according to the mayor and council, is to get the city out of the mowing business, which has lost a lot of money in the past two years.

Alderman Kevin Davis told the council that the city paid $10,491 in 2010 and $6,681 in 2011 to cut grass and collected only $640. The current grass ordinance allows the city to mow when residents won’t and then the city bills them for the expense. If they don’t pay, the city files a lien in the hope of getting paid if and when the property sells.

Mayor Bill Cypert said he has heard that between mowing the grass themselves, hiring it mowed or letting the city do it, property owners prefer to leave the job to the city. It’s cheaper for them.

When the new ordinance goes into effect in 30 days, letting the city mow won’t be an option. Instead violators will be fined $100 to $500.

Ordinances must be read three times during consecutive meetings before they are approved or voted down unless the council suspends those rules. Ordinance No. 5 of 2012 was on its second reading Monday night, but the council said the mild winter and early spring has led to an early grass mowing season and they wanted it passed now.

Five of the six alderman present from the eight-member council voted to approve the emergency clause, making the ordinance immediately effective. But all six votes were needed and the emergency clause failed which means fines for violations aren’t possible for 30 days.

Alderman Patrick Hutton voted against the emergency clause after the mayor said code officers would not enforce the new rules immediately. Hutton said he didn’t want enforcement to be an option until residents had been given the opportunity to read about it in local newspapers.

In addition to requiring that grass is cut in yards, the ordinance requires residents to mow their ditches, bans outdoor storage of appliances, furniture and inoperable vehicles and requires residents to get rid of essentially everything that could be perceived as unsightly such as stagnant pools of water, rubbish, brush, and construction wastes.

In other business the council:

Rezoned four residential lots to commercial. The lots are located at 204 S. Pine St., 206 S. Pine St., 210 S. Pine St. and 15 St. Francis St. Engineer Tim Lemons said the owners do not have a buyer for the property at this time.

Passed a resolution appointing Ken Kincade to the Cabot Parks and Recreation Commission.

Discussed a continuing project to link schools and business areas with sidewalks and awarded the contract for this year’s work on First Street to Gene Summers Construction for $64,376.64.