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Published August 09, 2010, 12:00 PM

Long grass an issue in small towns

DICKINSON, N.D. - Long grass is an ongoing battle in area small cities, officials say. Not only does it create an eyesore but it poses health risks, said Rex Herring, Southwest District Health Unit environmental health practitioner.

By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson Press, Worthington Daily Globe

DICKINSON, N.D. - Long grass is an ongoing battle in area small cities, officials say. Not only does it create an eyesore but it poses health risks, said Rex Herring, Southwest District Health Unit environmental health practitioner.

Belfield recently increased its rate for mowing lawns from $50 to $150 and Mayor Leo Schneider takes on the duty of cutting the grass.

The town wants it cleaned up due to the West Nile virus, mosquitoes and the possibility of the increased number of rodents, Herring said. “From what I can see, this year, we’ve had kind of an explosion in the mouse population,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot more rodents this year than we have in past years.”

In dry weather, long grass can also be a fire hazard, he added.

Tall grass and weeds are the most common complaint he hears in warm months, he said.

“There’s only so much we can do because we’re not a police enforcement agency,” Herring said. “It has to be the cities and their legal background that does the enforcing.”

Herring has visited Belfield three times this year and the city auditor recently prepared 60 letters for landowners, asking them to cut their grass.

“When it gets to over 8 inches, and most of the time it’s at like a foot, because we can’t even hardly keep up with it, we cut it,” said Cindy Ewoniuk, city auditor. “If they don’t pay the bill then we assess it to their taxes.”

The letters, which average about 15 properties on each, must be sent by certified mail, she said.

“We have to wait until they accept their certification card and then they have five days after that to get it cut,” Ewoniuk said.

Heartland Village, which also owns land in Dickinson, was recently in the pile of letters.

However, Valarie Fugett, general manager of Heartland Village in Dickinson, said the grass was cut before a letter arrived.

“Typically they call us once or twice a year and say it’s time to take care of the grass and then we send some of our grounds crew out and do it,” Fugett said.

Heartland Village has mowed twice in Belfield this year, Fugett said.

“If the city requires more and we’re getting any complaints and we need to increase it, we’re happy to do that,” she said.

Herring said unmaintained lawns are common in smaller cities in the area.

“Sometimes the bigger towns, like Dickinson, they have a little tighter ordinances,” Herring said. “They have city inspectors, whereas the smaller towns might not have. The city workers are out and about and working on streets and mowing city lots and things like this and so they’re more aware of it, I think too.”

Cheryl Berry, an administrative assistant at Killdeer City Hall, said the city cuts grass for 10 to 15 people who don’t maintain their properties.

“There’s a few that have houses on them, but most of them are lots,” Berry said. “They always pay their bills, so it’s not really been a problem.”

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