The way Grand Forks charges residents for overgrown lawns may change next year if the full City Council follows a committee recommendation made Monday night.
The council's Finance/Development Committee recommended approval of a new formula for calculating fees incurred by property owners when the city must mow an unlawfully overgrown lawn.
The formula will lower fees for large lots, but it will increase fees for some small lots.
The city hires a contractor to mow overgrown lawns when a resident won't, and then the resident is charged for that service. The contractor's fees depend on how long it takes to mow the property, usually increasing with larger lot size or more obstacles in the yard.
Under the current formula, the city triples the contractor's fee and charges the resident that amount. With the proposed new formula, the city would double the contractor's fee and add a $150 administrative fee.
City staff re-evaluated the mowing fee formula mainly because some large lots incurred "excessive" fees this year, and one person filed a complaint to have their fee lowered, City Finance Director Maureen Storstad said.
In each formula, the city charges more than the contractor to make up for the money it spends evaluating a property and warning residents before having the property mowed. The fee also serves as a punishment for having an overgrown lawn - which is against city code - Director of Grand Forks Public Health Don Shields said.
For example, earlier this year the owner of a 24,304-square-foot lot was charged $720 for city mowing, compared to a $630 fee calculated with the new formula. Fees for a 8,750-square-foot lot came in at $180 with the old formula versus $270 with the new formula.
"People should cut their grass on a regular basis," Shields said, which is why the city charges the cost of the mowing service plus a penalty. "We don't want to become the mowers of choice for the city of Grand Forks."
There were 49 city mowings on 39 properties this year, Shields said. A total of 207 warning letters were sent to residents.