The Oak Grove Board of Aldermen Monday discussed tightening an ordinance that defines how the city handles tall weeds and grass.

The Oak Grove Board of Aldermen Monday discussed tightening an ordinance that defines how the city handles tall weeds and grass.

It’s considered a nuisance when grass is 12 inches tall or more.

Alderman Larry Moore brought the subject to the board’s attention June 7. He said at the time he was getting complaints from residents about foreclosed homes with high grass. He asked if the city could speed up the process and get the grass mowed.

The city handles tall grass after getting a complaint or if a city worker notices the yard.

Staff will try to find the owner of the property. A letter is sent to the owner that tells the owner the grass is in violation of the ordinance. It gives the owner seven days to cut the grass.

A second letter, sent by certified mail, is sent after  the seven days of no action.

 If the occupant owner doesn’t cut the grass after the second seven-day notification window closes, the city issues a municipal citation.

Steven Craig, city administrator, said this method of double notification has always worked on occupied properties.

The current problem in Oak Grove is when a home is vacant, closed because of foreclosure. The process of getting the grass cut on these properties is more time-consuming, Craig said.

Staff has to find out which bank or mortgage company owns the property. Staff has to track down which department in the company handles the property, which can take time when dealing with a bigger company, like Bank of America.

It’s only a few properties in which the city cannot find the owner, according to staff.

If the city can’t find the owners, it will publish the information in the newspaper. After seven days pass and the city doesn’t hear back, staff will cut the grass and place a lien on the property that covers costs of mowing.

If the nuisance is deemed a health hazard, the city will declare it an emergency situation and mow the grass immediately, Craig said.

Recently, staff handled a high grass complaint on a home on 16th Street where the property changed hands six times in two months.

The city recently identified four properties deemed to violate the nuisance ordinance, based on  complaints from neighbors. A homeowner took care of the property and cleaned it up. But the city had to mow the other three, Craig said.

Aldermen talked about reducing the number of days from when an owner gets the letter to when the grass must be cut. Currently, the deadline is seven days.

But the city cannot legally do that, said Chris Williams, the city attorney.

Alderman Hank Melhorn said the board should publish the information sooner than it does now.

“We can’t just sit there and fiddle around and let these yards grow,” Melhorn said.

He also said the city should set fee amounts for processing the notifications and a steeper penalty for placing a lien on the property.

No action was taken in changing the ordinance.