Messy yard? It could cost you

GREENFIELD — Not keeping up with routine lawn care could cost local residents.

As the weather warms, grass and weeds will grow, and city officials are reminding residents the city ordinance requires them to mow their lawns and rid their yards of weeds. If property owners don’t comply, the city will hire a company to take care of the problem, and the property owner will foot the bill.

Recently, the Greenfield Board of Works and Public Safety approved contracts with several area companies for mowing, trash removal and trimming, which range in cost from $35 to $55 per hour.

City planning director Joanie Fitzwater said those services are needed when property owners fail to take care of their yards, and the city has to intervene.

Though the city ordinance doesn’t specify a length for high grass and weeds, Fitzwater said, her office typically steps in when the vegetation grows higher than 4 to 6 inches.

The first step of code enforcement is to issue a five-day written notice stating the property owner must fix the problem. If the property owner doesn’t remedy the issue after five days, the city can hire a company to do so.

And the cost will be passed right along to the property owner.

The clerk-treasurer’s office will send a bill to the property owner for reimbursement for the services. If the bill isn’t paid within 10 days, the city works with the county to put a lien on the property so the amount can be collected with the property’s taxes and paid to the city.

Fitzwater said the city is forced to have lawns mowed frequently and issues about 300 code violations a year for trash accumulation, overgrown grass and weeds, and unsafe buildings.

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting the lawnmower fixed,” Fitzwater said. “Abandoned properties is the biggest reason, and then we have some people who just take advantage of the system and let us cut it.”

Currently, the city has 47 open liens on properties where lawns violated the ordinance and had to be serviced, 26 of those are repeat offenders.

This year, the city is using four contractors to take care of mowing, trash removal and trimming. When it’s time for a lawn to be mowed, the city will pick one of contractors to do the work.

It’s necessary for the city to have that option to keep neighborhoods clean, Fitzwater said.

“Beyond the fact of just aesthetics and a nice-looking city, tall grass and weeds are homes for rodents and mosquitoes,” she said. “And trash tends to accumulate, so it’s the health and safety issues.”

Mayor Chuck Fewell said it’s important for the city to enforce its code to keep Greenfield beautiful.

“It’s a matter of pride for the city,” he said.

Beyond that, homeowners who keep their yard polished likely don’t want to be surrounded by homes that aren’t well maintained, he said.

City officials say it’s also important for residents to keep grass clippings out of the street when they do mow. Often, residents or their landscape companies mow the lawns and leave the grass clippings where they can clog the sewers.

City code prohibits residents from leaving rubbish, which includes grass and weeds, in streets, alleys and sidewalks.

Wastewater superintendent Dave Scheiter said grass clippings left in the street get washed into the city’s sewer system and create drainage problems.

“The sand and gravel is one thing,” he said. “The grass is probably one of the worst things that can get washed in there because it’s hard to get out.”

Fitzwater said the city counts on residents to keep them apprised of problem properties. To make a report, call the planning and building department at 317-477-4320.

Service charges

When property owners fail to maintain their yards, the city of Greenfield issues a notice stating they must do so in order to be compliant with city code. If no action is taken within five days to fix the problem, the city intervenes. The following companies will take care of such yard work for an hourly rate, which will be billed to property owners.

Green Management: $30 for mowing, $55 to bush hog; $27.50 for tree trimming; $25 for trash

Rutledge Enterprises: $35 for mowing; $55 to bush hog

Fisk Services: $35 for mowing; $55 to bush hog; $30 for tree trimming; $30 for trash

Vince Feeney Inc.: $35 for mowing; $45 to bush hog; $35 for tree trimming; $35 for trash

Problem property?

Residents may report problem yards in their neighborhoods to the city planning and building department at 317-477-4320.

Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or