Weeds May Grow Tall in Flood Zone This Summer

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

This house on M Street SW is one of several with overgrown lawns in the area. Photographed on Wednesday, May 27, 2010, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

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By Dave Franzman

CEDAR RAPIDS- The weeds may grow a lot taller this summer in some flood-damaged parts of Cedar Rapids. The city has taken over mowing duties for buyout properties already purchased as well as homes in the greenway or potential flood construction zone. But the kind of upkeep the city can do is limited.

The city’s Public Works department is using large machinery to cut grass and weeds. But current plans call for one pass only every four to six weeks. And things may grow a foot to a foot and a half tall by the time the mower returns.

City Public Works Maintenance Supervisor Craig Hanson calls the standard a “roadside maintenance level.” And that means neighbors shouldn’t expect a close and careful trim.

“It will be a rough cut—more longer grass…so we will have some complaints if they expect it to be lawn quality. It won’t be that level,” Hanson said.

Right now, the city has yard maintenance responsibility for 85 buyout homes. But that number will grow into the hundreds before the process continues. As buyout homes get demolished, city crews will remove fences and other obstacles and do a more thorough job of cutting grass and controlling weeds. At the moment, they can’t take the large machinery into tight spots.

Some owners, even those waiting on buyout paperwork, are still doing their own yard work—even though they live elsewhere. Wayne Neal is in that category and he was mowing the yards at several former rental properties in Czech Village on Thursday. Neal said “we’ve done ours ever since the flood, but there’s a lot of elderly people who own these houses and they just can’t get over here to do it.”

Another complication is some homes won’t get bought out—even though some won’t get repaired or have even been demolished. But the yards are still the responsibility of the owners. Sandy Fuchs and her husband have trimmed the grass at a neighbor’s home even though the house is long gone. And they’re getting tired.

“It’s not our property, but we don’t want it around our yard either,” Fuchs said.

City officials say in cases like that, neighbors will have to use the regular complaint process and city workers may eventually cut the grass and bill the owner.

During the last two summers, volunteers helped mow lawns for owners in the flood zone who couldn’t take care of damaged property. But that’s apparently not going to be an option this summer with those volunteer groups doing something else.

Another flood zone complaint involves animals still coming and going from damaged or abandoned homes. City officials say if workers see signs, they will call animal control. But that’s all they’re doing for now.

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