The city of Havre will apparently be getting more authority to crack down on people who let tall weeds grow on their lawns.
Ward 4 Councilperson Andrew Brekke at Monday night’s meeting presented changes he would like made to the nuisance weed ordinance.
The ordinance requires city property owners to keep the weeds and grass in their yards shorter than 8 inches.
Currently, the Department of Public Works sends a notice to property owners every time their yard has grown too tall. The notice warns them that if they do not cut the yard in 10 days, the city will come in and mow it for them. The city sends the owner a bill afterward and, if it goes unpaid, the bill goes onto the property’s taxes.
Brekke’s proposal would allow the city to send only one notice for a property owner on the first offence. Then, the city could mow the offender’s lawn.
The council was split in the vote to accept the first reading for the amendment.
Ward 3 Councilpersons Allen Woodwick and Jay Pyette voted against the first reading, but the item passed and will be discussed again at the next council meeting July 7.
“I do not agree that we can go onto someone’s property, do work and then charge them,” Woodwick said.
Pyette agreed, saying there are many circumstances where someone who is not already a repeat offender of the ordinance could find themselves in a situation where they cannot tend their yard or have just let it slip their minds.
The rift in viewpoints on the matter was mainly due to city workers being allowing to show up unannounced on private property and working.
Council members supporting the change said property owners have a responsibility to maintain their lawns.
“I think it’s a responsibility of ownership,” Ward 1 Councilperson Terry Lilletvedt said.
Dave Peterson, director of public works, said, “We’re not babysitters.” Peterson added that public works has projects it could be working on instead of the time spent mowing private property’s yards.
Brekke also presented the details of an alteration to be made to a city ordinance that requires street vendors, or any vendor with no permanent location like Saddle Butte Smoking’s truck or the blanket vendor at 5th Avenue and 1st Street.
Currently, street vendors must buy a $100 30-day permit to be legally allowed to sell their wares. The change would get rid of the ordinance entirely until the city can look into other ways of handling the situation.
“It was thought at the time that it was unfair to Havre business owners,” Brekke said, explaining how the ordinance came to be.
Local businesses pay city taxes while out of town vendors do not.
Since the ordinance was put in place, the city has found that the bulk of the people paying the $100 fee are Havre residents, not out-of-town vendors.
Council voted unanimously to look at the matter further before the second reading at the next council meeting.
Council also accepted a request to hire a new police officer.