Waiting in the weeds

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Grass and weeds grow unchecked in Maple Leaf Cemetery on Friday. Some municipal grass cutting is behind schedule as new contractors are hired for the job.

Grass cutting well behind schedule in C-K

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After a slow start, local contractors are out in full force mowing down overgrown grass on municipal properties.

On Friday, the municipality posted an apology on the Chatham-Kent website asking for the public’s patience while contractors play catch up on unkempt areas.

According to the statement, several locations are behind in their scheduled cuts, however, municipal officials are working closely with contractors to address the backlog.

The issue of overgrown grass on municipal properties came before council May 16, with several councillors saying they’ve received complaints. Maple Leaf Cemetery is a special area of concern.

Acting general manager of Infrastructure and Engineering Chris Thibert told council the current problem arose after five-year municipal grass cutting contracts expired in December 2021.

In March 2022, council approved a one-year extension for all of the grass cutting contractors, but 35 per cent of the companies declined to renew for another year.

“A fair amount of them were not able to perform the duties we were looking for,” Thibert said.

It left officials scrambling to cover off areas and having to let out tenders for new companies to take over.

Thibert gave kudos to the administrative team that scrambled to get new businesses on board.

“It was very challenging as we had a number of contractors submit bids and then back out,” he told council.

Thibert said the municipality was able to ink one-year deals with 55 per cent of its contractors who were “lined up and ready to start right away.”

But Thibert admitted, “there’s a lot of areas that have been neglected over the last couple weeks.”

South Kent Coun. Anthony Ceccacci said he hoped fire halls, cemeteries and sports fields would be a top priority, adding he’s received several complaints about neglected grass.

Ceccacci said he checked out the Chatham cemetery himself and found it to be unkempt.

“It was significantly overgrown,” Ceccacci told council, adding a number of families are concerned about conditions.

Chatham Coun. Doug Sulman who also went to investigate the overgrown grass at Maple Leaf Cemetery, said he’s heard complaints about mowers blowing grass onto tombstones.

He was assured by Thibert the cemetery contractor will comply with municipal standards and the problem would be addressed.

Sulman said he was satisfied with the response, adding if proper care is taken at the cemetery it will “make a lot of constituents very happy.”

Ceccacci told council he’s concerned about grass cutting contracts being awarded so late in the year. At the May 30 meeting, he’ll be bringing forward a notice of motion that will see municipal grass cutting consolidated under one department under five-year agreements.

Currently, there are 10 different contractors providing grass cutting for the municipality with a total budget of $1,019,493.

The 2022 grass-cutting budget is seeing an overage of $30,501.

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