By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Letting weeds grow uncut in yards in Havre can cost property owners big bucks.
Havre has a city ordinance requiring that all nuisance weeds - defined as "all weeds, grass, wild vegetation, and other uncared for vegetation growing to a height in excess of eight inches" - be cut and removed from property within the city limits.
If property owners are in violation of the weed ordinance, they are issued a notice by the city that outlines the ordinance and gives them 10 days to bring their property into compliance. After the 10th day, a city crew is sent to clean up the yard - for a fee.
"We clean up the whole property," said Havre Mayor Bob Rice, who spends several afternoons a week each summer helping to enforce the ordinance. "We cut down the weeds, mow the lawn, rake, trim the trees and hedges."
Rice said the minimum fee for the cleanup is $150, but sometimes those costs can escalate, depending on the length of time it takes to bring the property into compliance with the ordinance. The average cost per property is $350.
But getting the property owner to pay the cleanup bill is a challenge.
"Last year nobody paid," Rice said. "This year we've only had one person pay. It's definitely a problem."
To combat the problem, City Council members unanimously approved a resolution Monday night, assessing a special property tax against property owners who failed to pay the city for nuisance weed control on their property. Public works director Dave Peterson said the special tax will be sent to Hill County and applied to the property owners' taxes.
"This is really just an incentive to get people to clean up their property themselves," Peterson said. "We just want to make sure the city lots are maintained and kept clean."
Peterson said there are a number of problems associated with allowing weeds on lots within the city to grow unencumbered, including fire danger and the possibility of tall weeds attracting mice and snakes.
During the summer the city hires someone to drive through sections of town to inspect properties. Any property in violation of the nuisance weed ordinance is reported to the city's Public Works Department.
"Property owners are responsible for maintaining weeds from the center of the street to the center of the alley," Peterson said.
Rice said he's worked on fewer properties this year than last, and he hopes the trend continues.
"I worked on nine houses just last week," he said. "But we're seeing a definite decrease from last summer. I think some people are finally realizing that we're serious about this ordinance."