Councillors plagued by grass complaints
By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Chatham-Kent is taking steps to ensure it doesn’t get caught in the long grass next year.
At its May 30 regular meeting, council approved a multi-pronged motion from South Kent Coun. Anthony Ceccacci to streamline the tender process for grass cutting and put all contracts under the umbrella of one department.
The long grass and weeds on municipal lands – including cemeteries – has raised the ire of residents in recent weeks.
Several councillors expressed dismay about long grass and weeds on municipal property, saying many constituents are upset.
According to Ceccacci, he’s been getting an earful, especially from rural residents.
He also said new contractors who have just come online are taking flak, but it’s not their fault.
The municipality found itself in a tight spot earlier this year. Existing five-year grass cutting contracts were expiring. Council approved offering contractors a one-year extension, however many declined.
It left administration scrambling to come up with a last-minute solution.
New tenders had to be put out at the last minute and because it was late in the game, spring cuts were delayed in many areas.
Chris Thibert, acting general manager of engineering and infrastructure for Chatham-Kent, agreed the cuts were late getting started, noting the last-minute solution didn’t work out very well.
“A lot of our contractors walked away,” Thibert told council, which in turn led to the tendering process.
“We turned it around as quick as we could,” Thibert stressed.
Chatham Coun. Mike Bondy said he wants to ensure the long grass issue doesn’t recur.
Bondy told the meeting he visited his father’s grave at Maple Leaf Cemetery and was disappointed at the state of the grass.
He said Chatham-Kent residents deserve answers.
“I think the public really wants to know,” Bondy said, adding local residents, including himself, don’t want this to happen again.
Thibert said many areas of improvement have been identified and these will be incorporated by administration going forward.
He said it will take between two to four weeks to bring the grass up to proper conditions.
Acting CAO Tony Haddad said the municipality isn’t proud of what happened.
However, Haddad noted the matter has been examined, adding there are many “takeaways” that will remedy the situation in time for 2023.
He said a report will be coming back to council in the fall with a comprehensive plan in place that will “allow sufficient time” for contracts to be put in place.
An internal grass-cutting bid will also be reviewed, Haddad said.
Although council approved the signing of five-year contracts, Haddad said that will have to be determined with individual contractors. That information will be included in the report.