High weeds: Council looks for weapons

By MAX FILBY
STAFF WRITER

Findlay is still trying to kill its weed problem, and the solution it’s looking for may already be in place in another part of the state.

Earlier this month, City Council discussed taking action to eliminate high weeds and grass at abandoned, vacant or foreclosed homes in the city. On Thursday, council members met informally and debated how they could gain some leverage on local property owners. They may consider legislation similar to a law used in Chippewa Lake.

“You have nobody to talk to, nobody to hold responsible right now,” Anne Spence, councilwoman-at-large, said about the weed problem.

The legislation would address concerns about responsibility by creating a registration program for foreclosed, vacant and abandoned properties in the city. The program would identify who is responsible for maintaining properties and try to hold them responsible when they don’t.

“I’d like to see a little more strength and enforcement behind it,” said Robert Nichols, 7th Ward councilman.

Fifth Ward Councilman John Harrington said he has heard of some property owners neglecting their lawns and weeds until the city takes care of them, because it is cheaper to pay the city to mow than a private company.

That led some council members to discuss the possibility of having a sliding scale that would increase the city’s bill to a property owner every time it had to perform services.

Despite the options available to deal with overgrown grass and weeds, Harrington said he doubted the city would be able to completely eliminate the problem.

“Some of the blighted properties are notorious and are going to keep doing this no matter what,” Harrington said.

Harrington also has said there would be complications in creating a foreclosure registration program because of the ownership limbo some properties face. Some of that limbo is the result of a back-and-forth between banks and owners and limited liability corporations, with scant contact information, Harrington said earlier this month.

Findlay’s Neighborhood Enhancement and Abatement Team (NEAT) is the office that handles weed and lawn complaints. The process of addressing a complaint can take weeks.

Tom Klein, 4th Ward councilman, Grant Russel, councilman-at-large, Law Director Don Rasmussen and Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer have been working to find ways to strengthen NEAT to more quickly address concerns.

At a council meeting last month, Klein “guaranteed something will happen within the next two or three months” to better address the weed and lawn problem.

Separately Thursday, council heard from the Findlay-Hancock County Alliance about the organization’s duties and what it has been working on.

With a food distribution center coming to the area, the expansion of Marathon Petroleum Corp. downtown and several other projects, The Alliance announced there has been a total of $220 million in new investment in the Findlay and Hancock County area in 2014.

That amount of capital investment has also created an additional $43.9 million in payroll for new jobs, Alliance officials said.

Filby: 419-427-8422
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