City of Dayton officials say they are behind schedule in mowing grass at vacant lots and abandoned properties, but they hope to finish their first round of mowing by July 19 if weather doesn’t slow them down.
The city attempts to mow these 5,000-plus sites three times each during the growing season. Residents have been complaining about extremely tall grass for over a month, and there are some properties where grass and weeds are neck high.
“A lot of people think, hey, the city needs to get out here and mow these. But probably 90 to 95 percent are not city-owned properties,” Public Works Director Fred Stovall said. “We’re only doing it to try to preserve the quality of life in the neighborhood. Whoever the owner is, they’re not taking care of the property.”
The city charges $225 if it mows a property, with that fee being added to the property tax bill if it is not paid.
John Humphrey, who lives in the Hillcrest neighborhood off North Main Street, complained to city commissioners last month, calling the problem “entirely predictable” and an example of poor city management.
Stovall, City Manager Tim Riordan and City Commissioner Matt Joseph responded that significant spring rains delayed the start of the mowing program. But National Weather Service data shows Dayton actually had below average rainfall in March, April and May. Asked about that discrepancy this week, Stovall pointed out that the 2012 spring was abnormally dry and easier to handle, and by comparison, vegetation grew much faster and the problem was more noticeable this year.
Riordan has encouraged neighborhood associations and residents to care for nearby vacant properties themselves if it’s clear the owner has completely abandoned them. Out-of-state owners can be difficult to track down, while other homes went into limbo when the owner died.
The city has finished the first round of mowing in West Dayton neighborhoods, with Westwood (614 properties) and Southern Dayton View (400) requiring the most work. Crews are in northeast Dayton this week and will finish with southeast neighborhoods. By late June, the city had already mowed more than 4,000 properties.
Stovall said illegal dumping also delays mowing crews, as they have to clear trash off a property before they can mow it. By mid-June, the city had removed 2.2 million pounds of waste this year.