Overgrown grass and weeds on Macon-Bibb County property continues to be a source of concern for several commissioners.
Several said they’ve seen persistent overgrowth as city-county crews are unable to keep up with the pace in some areas. Government leaders say keeping up with cleaning debris and cutting grass on rights of way is hampered by a smaller staff, vast miles of streets and other factors.
The county’s Parks and Beautification Department picks up debris from the side of the road -- 110,000 pounds last fiscal year -- and cuts rights of way and parks. The department also mows several other public areas such as Rosa Parks Square.
But the county says that department is short-handed by as many as 17 workers.
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“No one will say we’re staffed to where we need to be to keep it country-club level,” Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said.
Commissioner Scotty Shepherd said the problem with high grass and weeds on private property at a former convenience store off Hartley Bridge Road is compounded by the county not keeping the rights of way clear.
“It looks terrible and that’s where people get off to come into the community,” he said. “It adds to the blight and the county adds to it by not cleaning up around it. How can I raise hell to the (owner) to clean his place up when we don’t clean up our area?” he asked.
In Macon-Bibb, 1,180 miles of rights of way are usually cut three to four times a year, said Steve Lawson, director of Parks and Beautification.
About 146 miles of that are cut by the Georgia Department of Transportation, which handles state routes twice a year and interstates three times a year, Lawson said.
Extra attention is given by Macon-Bibb to major thoroughfares such as Eisenhower Parkway and Riverside Drive as county crews revisit those streets in between the work performed by GDOT, Lawson said.
“When we lag behind, it’s on the outside places that we don’t get to cut as (often),” he said.
A work crew sometimes spends more time cutting grass in preparation of an event, or if there is a major business prospect visiting, Lawson said.
“Some of the places we try to get back to four times -- like Eisenhower or Riverside (Drive) if we’re going to have something going on with the Centreplex -- then we’ll get it an extra cut,” he said.
Commissioner Mallory Jones said there are areas in his north Bibb County district that aren’t being cut as quickly as they could be.
One of the reasons, he said, is because the Parks and Beautification staff is down so many workers.
A fully staffed department that had 61 employees now has 44 due to a variety of factors, including a hiring freeze since consolidation, Floore said.
The number of employees and finding other ways to improve the department will be a subject among city-county leaders in the upcoming weeks. Macon-Bibb is reorganizing after having at least 200 employees accept retirement packages by a July 31 deadline.
Workers are balancing keeping major roads cleaned up with trying to make sure rights of way in other neighborhoods don’t fall behind, Floore said.
Crews will also try to go back to areas where information was sent in on the “See Click Fix” function of the city-county government website, he said.
“It’s a significant amount of grass,” Floore said. “We ask residents to understand that while they get to cut their yards every week, we have 1,200 miles and can’t cut as often.”
Commissioner Virgil Watkins said the long-standing problem is evident in highly visible areas such as the block between Second and Pine streets in downtown Macon where weeds are growing. However, it’s worse in some of the less visited spots of the county.
“The problem is very bad with the height and neglect in areas that aren’t traveled as frequently,” Watkins said.