Tuesday night's city council meeting included a provocative discussion on actions that can be taken to clean up the community. As the summer drags on and grass and other undergrowth continue to overtake yards, public spaces, and even roadways, a concerned citizen demanded action.
Tuesday night’s city council meeting included a provocative discussion on actions that can be taken to clean up the community. As the summer drags on and grass and other undergrowth continue to overtake yards, public spaces, and even roadways, a concerned citizen demanded action.
In her address to the council, Loistyne Burrell told the city’s elected officials, “There is a house next to me and I want the grass there mowed. I called the code enforcer and I have paid out $95 [to get the grass cut] and I want to charge that to the city." She continued, "You are going to pay me my $95 because the grass grows up over the house. Though some property owners are out of town, some live in town. I have addresses of property owners in town and no one has done anything about this grass."
She reminded the council that when visitors come to our city to attend an event, "they have to wade through the grass." She reminded the elected officials around the table, "Councilmen, your job is to take care of the city of Helena-West Helena – stop falling behind on this no good trash and do something about your city!"
In responses to Burrell's address to the council, councilman and mayor pro-tem Don Etherly stated, "I have been looking over the code books about citations."
He pointed out that the city code chapter 5.12 covers the maintenance of real property and they have the ability to issue citations. It is a misdemeanor offence for grass to grow to a certain height in the city. I want to ask if this process being followed. The code enforcer can have the police go out and issue a citation to the property owners and they would have to come to court just like anyone with a speeding ticket."
Councilman John Huff then addressed the issue of overgrown lots in the community.
"Maybe we can take a set amount of dollars out of the street budget and appropriate it to contracted services so that we can clean this city up,” he said. “In order to clean the whole city up, we can cut the grass and then we can spray it. We want to have this place cleaned up before Labor Day weekend because we have a festival coming."
Huff continued, "How are we going to keep inviting people downtown when it's nasty? I am sick and tired of it."
Huff then asked mayor Etherly, "How can we tell other people to maintain their property when we are the worst property owners in the city of Helena-West Helena. We have equipment that we bought and we don't use but the two mowers that you see. If you go down Springdale Road it is almost a one-lane highway now. What are we doing? Look at the parks. It is embarrassing!"
City attorney Chalk Mitchell commented, "The problem that we've had is the courts' unwillingness to use this as an alternative. I think we need to sit down and talk about it along with the courts. The judges can sentence them to community service and come up with a viable program. I do agree that there are people that would rather work their fine off if they don't have money and certainly there is an identifiable need. I think the citizens have the right to now at least where the stop signs are, so let's peruse this and let's start tomorrow. I don't think that requires and council action but rather worked through the district court."