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City fights with state over state route mowing
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The Tennessee Department of Transportation has been sent a notice of violation letter by McMinnville’s Planning and Zoning Department for high vegetation along state routes.
Current city code limits the height of grass to 12 inches, while some of the grass along state-owned right of ways is several feet tall.
“We are trying to keep the grass code-compliant,” said Mayor Jimmy Haley. “Codes sent a code violation letter to TDOT and we have a couple people from TDOT here tonight who want to address this issue.”
TDOT representatives Jeremy Price and Lance McDonald were in attendance during a Safety Committee meeting.
“We have rules that we have to abide by also, just like everybody in this room,” said Price. “In the future, we would like an opportunity to at least have a conversation about these things before you have to worry about sending letters.”
The state is only obligated to mow three times a mowing season and because of that, it tries to pick the peak times to mow, says Price.
The state allows cities and counties to mow and pick up litter along state-owned right of ways that pass through its boundaries. In return, the state provides financial reimbursement. A contract is offered by the state annually in July and can either be signed or rejected by the city or county.
McDonald reminded city officials they rejected the state’s offer in July 2015 and July 2016 so mowing and litter pick up were given to a private contractor through June 2018.
“Unfortunately, for this year, we (city and state) did not renew the contract,” said McDonald. “That started in July. Our end of fiscal year ends June 30 of every year and begins July 1. We are into fiscal year 2016-17. At the very beginning of every fiscal year we start working on contractual agreements with cities and counties and contractors for the following year, which is 2017-18. Unfortunately, we have passed the deadline for a city-maintenance agreement for 2017-18. We can use the next year or so to discuss the contact. We will pay you to mow six times a year. That would go a long way toward addressing the codes issue.”
Officials rejected the contracts for two reasons: the financial reimbursement offered by the state was about half what it was in the past and new stipulations in the contract meant the city would also be responsible for potholes, drainage, stripping, and traffic signals.
Aldermen Everett Brock said the city did not agree with those other items.
“There were other things in the contract,” he said. “We rejected the contract because there were too many items that we were responsible for, other than mowing and litter pick up. It didn’t make us feel warm and fuzzy going through the other things that were required. It wasn’t just the mowing.”
Brock also voiced discontent for the state mowing only three times a year when it used to mow six times.
“I doubt you just mow your yard three times up until now. I was on the bypass the other day and I have an SUV that puts me up plenty high and I could not see over the grass before the city mowed it. I’m not sure why you guys are here unless you want to mow it about six or seven times a year.”
Price added, “Contractually, we can’t do that.”
“Contractually, you used to,” said Brock.
If a contractual agreement between the city and state can be reached on mowing, it will not go into effect until July 2018. The state is under contract with a private contractor to mow three times a season through June 2018.