Commonwealth Journal

June 14, 2014

Councilors want more money for cleanups

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

City officials may be looking to take a bigger bite out of the wallets of property owners who fail to mow their lawns.
“ ... If we go to mow your yard, you ought to pay us $250,” said Councilor Mike New during the Monday Somerset City Council meeting. 
The city already has an ordinance in effect that regulates property care in the city. If land owners fail to keep their yards cleaned and mowed, the city moves in to do the job for them. Right now, owners are charged $50 by the city for mowing. 
That’s not enough, according to councilors. 
“A lot of people paying $50 are coming out ahead,” said New. 
City officials are echoing problems that county officials have been dealing with as well. During Tuesday’s Pulaski Fiscal Court meeting, Pulaski Solid Waste Coordinator Gerald Hines said the cost of cleaning up abandoned properties in the county has surpassed $50,000. 
“We have an ordinance in place that deals with these issues, but we have to enforce it,” Hines told the court.
During Monday’s city council meeting, Councilor Jerry Burnett said the problem is “all over town.”
 “We’re not trying to be mean, but it’s not fair to the rest of the neighborhood,” said Burnett. “When they tell you ...  ‘I mowed my yard and keep it nice and then the city comes and mows my neighbor’s yard,’ what do you do?
“We just need to get somebody’s attention,” Burnett continued. “And it’s not everybody ... we’ve got just a few that need addressed.”
Councilor Jim Rutherford pointed out a majority of problem properties have abandoned or foreclosed houses. 
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler said Somerset City Attorney Carrie Wiese would look into making changes to the ordinance, which may include a steeper fee for mowing services provided by the city. 
“ ... Sometimes landlords just do not take care of their property,” Girdler said. 
In other news from Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting: 
• Girdler confirmed that this year’s SomerBlast event is scheduled for Saturday, July 5 at SomerSplash Water Park. The event will feature performances by bands in the afternoon, and a fireworks display at around 10 p.m. 
• Councilors have received word that the first event to be held at the city’s amphitheater, which is still under construction, may be a blues music and barbecue festival, slated for September. 
• Councilors approved dedicating Second Street to Bro. J.S. New, a longtime pastor and community leader who passed away in April 2012. A sign will be placed in honor of New. 
“J.S. touched a lot of people,” said Mike New. 
Heather Tomlinson is a staff writer for the Commonwealth Journal. She can be reached at: