Youngstown council concerned over new mowing program

Published: Thu, June 7, 2018 @ 12:08 a.m.

By David Skolnick


City council members expressed concern over the change in the cutting of grass on the lots of vacant houses.

Council discussed the grass-cutting program Wednesday.

The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. handled the program between 2015 and 2017, doing more than 10,000 cuts each year for a flat $200,000 fee.

Under the new program, the YNDC was replaced by seven contractors getting paid $200,000 in total. But the cost is $30 per cut meaning the businesses can do no more than 6,666 cuts.

If more cuts are needed, however, Kyle Miasek, interim finance director, said money could be taken from the demolition program to fund it.

“I thought YNDC was a good program,” said Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th. “The new program got behind the eight ball. We’re trying to catch up. But I’m not happy we’re paying a lot more per cut and not getting more work.”

Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th, said, “I’m not happy with it. We were getting it cheaper per cut last year. If we use these companies for multiple lots, it shouldn’t be $30. That is too high. We should be getting a better deal.”

Davis and Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th, said they checked lawns that were supposed to be mowed in their wards and some weren’t cut.

The new contractors are Dare to Dream Foundation, Tucker and Son’s Lawn Care, United Returning Citizens, Art’s Lawn Care, Phylum LLC, Eartha Shade Enterprises and Craig’s Lawn Service.

The city went with the contractors because YNDC asked for $225,000 this year to cover the cost of additional labor and management expenses.

Even so, the program makes money for the city.

Last year, the city collected $501,971 in assessments from those whose lots were cut. Individuals who own vacant homes where lots are mowed in this manner are charged $150 per cut, though many don’t pay.

“There are definitely some concerns, but there were reasons behind the changes,” said Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said, “It’s a new process. We’ve got some outstanding vendors. We’re waiting to see what happens. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. We’ll stay within budget.”

The grass-cutting issue came up because of legislation council had to fund the program for $200,000. It chose Wednesday to delay a vote until its June 20 meeting, but the program is already running.

That’s because each contractor is getting paid no more than $20,000, and the board of control already approved the contracts. The board has the authority to make deals for that amount without council’s approval.

Miasek said the proposal was brought to council to show the members what’s in the budget for grass cutting.

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