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Salem service director: High grass mown when time allows

SALEM — City service workers have enough projects to handle in the summer without having to cut people’s lawns, but Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said they’re mowing when they can.

“There’s a policy in place,” he said Friday.

Kenst said his office has been getting a lot of complaints about high grass already this year, including for a house on East State Street where the service department had to cut the grass Thursday. The owner of the property lives out of state.

He said that’s one of the problems they’re dealing with regarding some of the properties with high grass. The owners are absent, the homes are abandoned and a majority are in foreclosure.

“Nobody’s going to take care of it,” he said.

So the job falls to the city, but Kenst said residents need to realize that city workers can’t just drive by a house, see the grass is high and then go cut it. The city has a procedure in place since the problem involves private properties.

Complaints are fielded through the city housing inspectors. If grass is 8 inches or higher, a housing inspector can go to the property, confirm there’s a violation and place an order on the door, giving the property owner five days to cut the grass.

If the housing inspector returns and finds the grass hasn’t been cut, then a form is filled out for the service department to cut the grass and it’s placed on the schedule.

Kenst said the city has its own grass to mow on city-owned properties and plenty to do in the summer with the streets, so they get to the problem lawns when they can. When the city cuts the grass, there’s an administrative fee of $90 plus a fee for the labor that can average $100 or more.

City Auditor Betty Brothers said the city submitted $14,240 worth of lawn mowings to the Columbiana County Auditor last year to assess owners of the properties on their property tax bills. She said that represented 68 lawn mowings by the city service department at a cost that averaged over $200 each.

Garbage too

High grass isn’t the only complaint being heard by Kenst these days. A business owner in downtown Salem recently emailed the Salem News about the garbage containers in downtown not being emptied, saying he’s had to empty the container in front of his business himself at times.

When asked about the issue, Kenst said the city emptied the containers last week when the contractor couldn’t be reached after multiple attempts. The city has a contract with Aarrow Disposal to empty the containers in downtown Salem, but there have been some problems lately with the work not getting done.

He said the contract calls for the containers to be emptied once a week.

He said he may be contacting the city law director about making a change. The contract is for three years and they’re mid-way through.

“We want to get it resolved,” Kenst said.

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