Officials: ‘Bear with us’ on unkempt lawns

JFD and DPW react to public complaints

JOHNSTOWN — City officials have three words to tell the public regarding overgrown lawns in violation of city codes: “Bear with us.”

The city Fire Department’s codes enforcement office and the city Department of Public Works work together during any given summer on lawns whose grass become unsightly and overgrown. Firefighters find the potential violations and as a last resort, DPW may step in and cut the lawn of violators, at the home owner’s expense.

The subject came up during two city reports given during the Common Council meeting Monday night at City Hall. Officials said they are getting public complaints about overgrown lawns on a steady basis.

“There’s a lot of lawns that need to be mowed,” said Fire Chief Bruce Heberer.

But Heberer also noted the entire process leads to a lot of extra works for DPW — above and beyond their other normal duties.

The fire chief said the public needs to know the city is “on top of it,” trying to work with homeowners to get their grass cut on a routine basis. He said that the codes part of the fire department has to work with the mortgage companies and sometimes those firms can change quickly creating more of a problem. He said sometimes the overgrown grass issue can be on a small corner street that is less seen.

“If anybody has a complaint, bring them in,” Heberer said. “Sometimes, we don’t know about it.”

Any complaints will be added to a master grass complaint list, he said.

“Bear with us,” Heberer said.

City Engineer Christopher Vose, who oversees the DPW, reminded the public of the lawn situation: “We don’t police them.” But he said the homeowner is given a full two days, or 48 hours, to remedy the situation.

“We react to complaints,” Vose said.

He said the city has to send a letter to property owners and then provide them the allotted time, which sometimes seems not quick enough for other members of the public. He said the DPW cutting unkempt yards is going to consume city resources.

“Obviously, it takes up time and manpower,” the city engineer said.

Vose said DPW is actually down in staff members at this time, adding a “process” is in place for lawns.

“We do the best we can,” he said.

Third Ward Councilwoman Helen Martin said the majority of the community understands.

“The people also have to have patience,” she said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.