Now that the area has had time to dry out from overabundant spring rains, complaints of tall grass across neighborhoods are ticking upward.

Now that the area has had time to dry out from overabundant spring rains, complaints of tall grass across neighborhoods are ticking upward.

A typical $30 lawn-mowing job can cost a Shawnee resident quadruple that if the city is forced to take care of it.

Shawnee's Action Center code inspector Warren Ingersoll keeps the city looking sharp by enforcing local ordinances — especially issues regarding lawn maintenance in the summer.

Currently, tall grass, junk and trash are the main complaints, he said.

“We are doing our best to stay on top of complaints,” Ingersoll said. “Due to all of the rain this last spring, tall grass and weeds have been an issue, we are working hard to stay on these properties.”

Until recently, he's been on his own to man the huge undertaking.

“Since December 2018 Code Enforcement has been down to one person,” Ingersoll said. “The last week of June, another code enforcement officer was hired.”

The new addition to the team, Christy Heaps, is still in training.

The code

Shawnee's code is based on state law.

City Ordinance states that grass and weeds more than 12 inches high are a code violation. There are only a couple exceptions to the rule –– sunflowers and wild flowers, and areas zoned as rural agricultural property are exempt.

Nearly 100 tall grass complaints are currently on the city's books.

By that count, considering the minimum –– if all of those sites are typical quarter-acre lots –– a total of $7,150 is being shelled out to pay for what could have been a $1,650 tab for mowing –– a difference of $5,500.

Figure in a whole summer of complaints and it adds up to –– again, at a minimum –– a $156,000 price tag for roughly 1,200 mowing jobs that could have been hired out for $36,000 –– or cheaper, if mowed by owners.

In the summer, there are typically 1,200-1,500 complaints called in, on average.

The process

“When a complaint comes in to the call center, we have to go by the address to verify the accuracy and locate/verify the ownership of the property,” Ingersoll said.

A legal notice is then sent out and the owner has 10 days from the date of the notice to correct the problem, he explained.

“If the problem is not properly addressed, the city takes bids to get the property mowed or cleaned up,” he said. Once a contractor is chosen from the bids received, the contractor is sent a notice and then works the property into their schedule.

“We do try to work with people who need extra time to finish cleaning up their property,” Ingersoll said. “Communication is key in this area.”

Citations can be issued, he said, but are a last resort.

To view a map of current active tall grass complaints on the city website, visit shawneeok.org.

Making contact

Most complaints are received by phone or online from area residents.

The job's not done when the grass stops growing. The Action Center team still has plenty to do the rest of the year dealing with debris removal, brush, limbs and dilapidated buildings, among other things.

To make an anonymous complaint to the Action Center, call (405) 878-1602, or for more information, visit shawneeok.org.