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City leader says unruly grass due to funding schools extra $9 million

Posted at 5:45 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 17:48:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s not the first time city residents have seen high grass, and according to city officials, residents will have to get used to it -- until July at least.

From South Richmond to Monument Avenue, the rain-soaked grass has shot up --- and public opinion has gone down.

Residents like Brian Thompson said he takes pride in beautifying his South Richmond home, and he thinks the “mess” outside his front door on Semmes Avenue “looks shabby.”

"I've never seen it this high before,” said resident Linda Anderson, who walks her dogs on Monument Avenue every day.

"It looks awful,” she added. “It makes me sad; It looks unkempt -- kind of tacky."

City leaders said the high grass along medians is a result of budget cuts now in effect.

"We're just short in terms of manpower for Public Works,” said 4th District Council Member, Kathy Graziano, who leads the city's finance committee.

“Between now and July we're very strapped,” she added.

Graziano said the city is feeling the pinch after the council's decision to cut $9 million in funding last year for vacant positions across city departments, to increase the school's budget.

Others interviewed pointed out to the money that goes towards the Washington Redskins training camp, annually, and that went to the UCI Bike Races last fall.

The city previously paid almost $300,000 to the Redskins and will pay over $350,000 this year.

According to its own expenditures report, since 2011, the city spent at least $9.7 million towards UCI races, and barely gained a fraction of that amount back in return.

Graziano said the situation should improve in July when the new fiscal year kicks in and the city's Department of Public Works will be funded an additional $300,000 dollars to hire part-time and temporary workers to cut the grass.

Right now the department has 91 vacancies.

Residents can’t follow the city’s lead, however. City code says residents must cut their grass if it reaches 12 inches or higher. If they don’t, the city will do it and send you the bill.

“Yes, the city is not cutting the grass and that's a bad thing and we need to do it,” Graziano said. “By the same token, you as a homeowner have the responsibility to keep your house looking cared for."

Volunteers who want to help mow grass for the city can contact the Clean City Commission Coordinator Darlene Mallory, at (804) 646 - 8325.

The call for volunteers for such services isn't unprecedented. In May 2010, the Virginia Department of Transportation reached out to Commonwealth citizens for help mowing grass along the roads.

VDOT, at the time, said it couldn’t afford to cut the grass it's responsible for maintaining, due to statewide budget cuts.

The program came about after many people called VDOT asking if they could lend a hand. The organization required folks to get a permit to help.