St. John Council tightens grass-length regulations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 19, 2014

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

LAPLACE – Residents in St. John Parish the Baptist Parish are being granted less leniency regarding the height of their grass before officials step in with a citation.

The parish council recently adopted an ordinance lowering the tolerable grass height from 12 to 10 inches. After that, residents may be cited, which automatically triggers a secondary clock of 15 days that the grass must be cut.

“I don’t see (the ordinance) as a big deal,” councilman Lucien Gauff said. “I’m not exactly sure (why the ordinance is being changed). Who’s out there measuring?”

Council member Jaclyn Hotard, who introduced the ordinance, said code enforcement officers do measure the grass, especially in the hot summer months when negligent or absentee property owners let their grass grow to the point of attracting rodents or snakes or becoming nuisance. The issue of overgrown lawns and lots is one that has frequently been addressed by the council in the past.

“The grass cutting season is approaching,” Hotard said. “There was a lot of backlog last year.”

Director of Planning Angelic Sutherland said code officers were recently equipped with mini computers and are training on a software program that allows them to import violations into the parish system from the offending site.

Previously, the secretary was responsible for inputting violations based on information from code officers.

“We are trying to go live,” she said. “We wanted to get used to the system before we get backed up.

“The code officer has more responsibility putting (violations) into the system.”

Madere said he has no problem lowering the allowable height, while conceding, “it seems like a small issue but by the time when (the grass is cut or the owner cited) it will be over 12 inches. We are getting a jump on it with 10 inches.”

In other council news, parish Director of Utilities Virgil Rayneri said a recent maintenance operation of the LaPlace water well near Ruddock went well. He said there were no reported problems, and the condition of the well “looks good.”

“Everything went as planned,” said council member Marvin Perrilloux, who was present while the maintenance was being performed. “It was real good. We did not have to shut the residents off.”

Rayneri said the parish used every contingency to assure no interruption of service, including using water from the St. Charles Parish and Reserve systems.

Madere also challenged Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Debra Poche when she informed council members that the baseball fields were in the process of being turned in preparation for the upcoming little league schedules.

“It’s kind of late for that” Madere asked.

Poche said the contractor informed her department that the work was on schedule.

“I know he’s wrong,” Madere said. “I would have turned it over at the close of the previous season to have it ready for the upcoming season. To say we are right on time, he is wrong.”

“My suggestion is don’t turn it over,” he added. “I don’t think it’s a very good idea to turn it over now.”

Parish President Natalie Robottom said park officials are using a professional service to prepare the fields and added they will be ready by the time the first pitch is thrown later this spring.

“We don’t have the staff to do it,” she added. “That’s not their only responsibility.

“Clearly, we are not going to put our youth in danger.”

Additionally, the parish does not have the necessary equipment to properly maintain a baseball field but with passage of a recent bond issue that could potentially be addressed.

Gauff said the best solution is to hire someone with professional experience to manage the field throughout the year.

“It seems like we are to prepare for the future,” he said. “If the plan is to hold state tournaments, we need better fields.”