Despite having only two grass cutting crew members instead of four this year, the Code Enforcement Office is on pace to do more work than last year.
One budget casualty for 2012 made last year under then Mayor James F. Brown was cutting two positions. Crew members earn $9 an hour, and work a full work week during the season, which runs April 1 to Oct. 31.
They maintain not only 115 city-owned parcels, but cut lawns of private property owners who do not comply with the code limit on the height of grass — eight inches in the inside district and 10 in the outside district.
"Two crews of two was adequate to get the volume we had done," said Codes chief Mark Domenico of 2011. Crews cut 142 lawns that were in violation of the code last year. That generated $55,288.
This year, the city got a break because of the weather. "The drought totally worked in our favor. It helped us manage things," he said. The department also turned over some of its larger parcels to Public Works crews with larger equipment. Those locations include the Canterbury Press property, the Erie Boulevard/Rome-New London Road grassy area and the former Rossi site in the East Rome Business Park, though the last site was recently sold and is no longer the city’s responsibility to maintain. So far this year, with 78 cutting days remaining in the season, crews have cut the grass at 125 private properties, generating $51,575. At this pace, crews will cut almost 200 private lawns and generate about $82,520.
While the department’s 2013 budget process is still ongoing, Domenico said he has requested to return to four crew members.
When a private land owner does not comply with the code, an inspector will post an order at the site and mail an order to the owner. "It gives the owner a period of time to cut the lawn, usually three days," Domenico said. Each order is tracked, with a re-inspection done after three days. If the work is not done, an order is submitted for the cutting crew to do the work. The city then bills the owner for the time and material to do the work, plus a 20 percent administrative fee, as well as a surcharge that increases per offense. For the first offense the surcharge is $150, the second is $250 and the third is $500. The charges are levied on the following year’s city tax bill.