Lot-mowing violations plague Tupelo summers

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal


TUPELO – Overgrown grass, weeds and generally unkempt lawns have kept the city’s code enforcement team busy this summer with more than 100 active cases this month alone.
It can take up to six weeks from the time officers identify an overgrown lot until the city gets it mowed. Layers of paperwork, notices, City Council hearings and contract bidding clog the process and add hundreds of dollars to its cost.
By the time the city finally hires someone to mow an unkempt lot, property owners could face thousands of dollars in fines, penalties and administrative costs.
“It’s always bad in the summer,” said BJ Teal, who heads the city’s Development Services Department, which oversees lot-mowing violations.
Most property owners trim their lawns before Teal’s team reaches the final step: awarding a contract to a lawn maintenance company to do the job. Out of 70 cases in May, only five went out for bid. The rest eventually complied – but they still stuck the city with weeks of administrative work whose costs taxpayers must pay.
Bryan Street resident John McMillen’s lawn was neat and trim Friday afternoon; the family’s little dog sprawled out on top of it. McMillen said he mows the grass every seven to 10 days. But he’s aware not all homeowners do the same.
One block to the west, long grass and weeds overtook the yard of a vacant house. McMillen said the city does its best to crack down on violations like these, but it could do better.
Teal agrees, which is why she wants to streamline the process next year to better identify repeat offenders. Those with three prior violations would go on an automatic mow list and receive regular bills.
The city also will consider bidding out one mowing contract for an entire season’s worth of work, instead of multiple contracts each month.
The new system would shave weeks of wait time from the process and potentially save thousands of dollars, Teal said.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.

Got a complaint?
– Call Tupelo’s code enforcement division with complaints about overgrown lots at (662) 841-6440.

City code
– “In order to control and to eliminate as far as possible rats, mice, snakes and mosquitoes, and thereby to promote the public health and safety of the citizens of the city, it is declared to be the public policy of the city to encourage all property owners to keep their property mowed at sufficient intervals to eliminate high grass, weeds and underbrush.”
TUPELO ORDINANCE, CHAPTER 13,
ARTICLE 2, SECTION 13-16