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Derry to sharpen lawn regulation

Jeff Himler
| Saturday, April 28, 2012, 2:16 a.m.

Derry Council wants its public works crew to get out of the business of mowing private lawns.

In hopes of coaxing owners of vacant or foreclosed properties to trim their grass, council Monday approved advertising amendments to a lawn maintenance ordinance that would enact stricter penalties and guidelines.

If approved, the amendments would shorten the maximum height allowed for grass from 12 inches to 8 inches while doubling the fine for a violation from $300 to $600.

Council President Allen Skopp said borough workers are mowing more than 20 private lawns in addition to the borough-owned acreage they tend in order to prevent overgrowth from harboring vermin.

"We're not a lawn-mowing service," he protested. "The guys have a lot more important things to do."

In addition to tying up borough manpower, he said the unwanted chore is taking its toll on borough mowers. Councilman Barry Smith noted it may be time for the borough to invest in a new commercial mower.

Council member Kristine Melville suggested checking to see if juvenile offenders who are assigned community service could take over mowing chores.

Also yesterday, council members were crying foul over PennDOT's recent seal coating operation in the borough, maintaining that the "tar and chips" state crews applied on Route 217 resulted in pounds of loose gravel strewn along the highway and into the storm sewer system.

Skopp said he fielded complaints from residents about dust kicked up during the work early last week. He said when a state contractor responded with a street sweeper to address the gravel, "They swept it into the sewers, and it ended up in a bigger mess."

"There are probably 10 to 15 pounds of it in the drains," he said of the gravel. "The sweeper just compounded it."

Borough Secretary Lori Latta said a spokesman indicated PennDOT is "going to come out and remove the debris."

"Hopefully, they don't wait six months to come back and fix it," Skopp said. He expressed concern that the stray gravel could cause flooding if it clogs storm drains the borough just separated from sanitary sewer lines in the borough's 4th Ward to ease the burden on its sewage treatment plant.

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