Procedures slowing grass cutting progress

Published 11:21 pm Monday, August 10, 2009

Drive through just about any ward in Selma on a Saturday and someone will have a clean-up day.

These special days bring together people to clean up their neighborhoods. Many times that means volunteers mount a lawn mower or grab a big trash bag and cut grass or pick up litter from abandoned lots.

Although the volunteers do this work willingly, some, like Jaque Johnson of Ward 3, are frustrated by how slowly government works to get vacant lots or the lots surrounding vacant houses cleaned up.

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“It’s ridiculous. It takes a good eight weeks to do something about it,” Johnson said.

The Selma City Council has taken grass cutting in hand, asking its city attorney to cut out some of the steps government goes through to see these lots cleaned up.

Here’s the process as it currently works: A council member turns in a request to the mayor, who gives it to code enforcement. Code enforcement inspects the property, identifies the owner and contacts the owner. There are no time frames for these initial steps.

A letter is sent to the property’s owner giving that individual seven days to correct the problem. But then the owner has 10 days to respond to the letter.

If the property is deemed a nuisance because the owner has not responded, a hearing is set before the council. But the city must set that hearing 21 days after the owner’s 10 days have expired. Additionally the city must advertise the nuisance property for at least two weeks in the newspaper. Then, the city may hold the hearing at its next regular board meeting.

The city cannot cut grass on private property unless it follows its procedure, said Mayor George Evans.

Councilwoman Dr. Monica Newton suggested a change in procedure to cut time short in the process, saying she is “frustrated” with the time it takes to finally get grass cut.

Jimmy Nunn, the city’s attorney, is expected to bring a shorn down version of the process at the city council meeting Tuesday night for council members to consider.

“I certainly hope it gets done,” Johnson said.