City calls on public to combat weed, grass problem
By BY DAVID TEWES
July 27, 2010 at 2:27 a.m.
IN OTHER ACTIONThe city council also approved issuing $8.6 million in general obligation bonds to refinance older bonds at a lower interest rate.
Financial advisor Bob Henderson said that will lower the interest rate from 4.85 percent on the older bonds to 3.01 percent on the new ones, saving taxpayers $753,249.
"The city's bond rating is so good that municipal bond insurance is not needed," he said. Cities sometimes pay for bond insurance to get a better interest rate.
The city will educate the public about its mowing responsibilities and add a mowing cycle for drainage systems to combat a problem with high weeds and grass.
"I think this is the best we can do right now," Mayor Will Armstrong said. "But even with the additional mowing cycle, we're not going to catch up until the growing season is over and the rain stops."
Rains in late June and July sparked the growth of grass and weeds in the city's drainage ditches, creeks and other rights of way. That growth occurred just when the city cut back on its mowing schedule to save money to make up for lower sales tax income.
Armstrong called on the city to find a way to increase the frequency of mowing, saying the growth of vegetation doesn't offer a good image of Victoria.
The Parks and Recreation Department oversees the mowing of 200 acres of drainage ditches and 300 acres in the Lone Tree Creek flood control basin. It's also responsible for curbs and gutters, barrow ditches and vacant lots the city bought near the Guadalupe River so people could move from the flood zone.
Doug Cochran, director of parks and recreation, said over the years the city has also experienced "service creep."
It has taken on mowing some open drainage ditches next to lots and strips of city right of way between privacy fences and the streets. But Cochran said according to city ordinance, those areas are the responsibility of the property owners.
Some don't realize that and others don't have gates in their privacy fences that would make it convenient to mow the rights of way.
"Most people don't think it would be reasonable to have to build a gate in their backyard," City Manager Charles Windwehen said. "It is a problem."
But he added that for the city to continue to take on that responsibility would mean having to cut services or raise taxes. That's why the city will mount a program to educate people about their responsibilities. Cochran said his staff has already started doing that, contacting property owners in person to explain the law.
"Once it is explained to them, they understand what their responsibilities are," he said.
Other recommendations made by Cochran include continuing to use herbicide to reduce growth and conducting supplemental mowing of Texas Department of Transportation rights of way. He said the state mows only a couple of times a year and some areas such as Zac Lentz Parkway become unsightly entries into Victoria.