City Council Notes:Weeds, Pit Bulls and the Walnut St. Bridge

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While the world – or at least curious Roanokers – waited for word from the closed sessions concerning Darlene Burcham’s reign as city manager, there was other news coming out of Monday’s council meeting.

Council identified the City Market building renovations, estimated at more than $6 million, as the top capital project priority, superceding the amphitheater and Countryside golf course.

There was also talk about the tall weeds again – and criticism that while the mowing of public right of ways has been delayed due to budget woes, residents are being ticketed for the same issue. Grass and weeds over 10” high are subject to code enforcement department fines. Burcham said she had instructed that department to treat everyone with tall weeds fairly – whether they are a public or private concern.

In addition, she hopes to hire more private contractors soon, to reduce the backlog of properties that must be mowed. Mayor David Bowers also asked Burcham to contact cash-strapped VDOT about the tall grass on the I-581 ramp at the Elm Avenue interchange. The Transportation Dept. has also lengthened the time period between mowings.

The city will cut grass and weeds if the property owner doesn’t – and charge them several hundred dollars in the process. Most violators (4 out of 5) do correct the problem themselves, a rate Burcham called, “pretty good compliance. We have a good community of citizens.”

Enforcement for tall weeds and grass in Roanoke City occurs on a complaint basis. Roanoke will place liens on property owners (renters are not responsible) if city crews do the mowing and the bills issued aren’t paid.

The Walnut St. Bridge should be open by this weekend after being shut down for repairs, reported Burcham. Demolition of the old flour mill near the growing Carilion complex on South Jefferson will take place next; the city wanted to reopen Walnut Street first, since parts of South Jefferson around the flour mill may be closed while the concrete silos come down.

Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea is concerned about pit bulls running loose in the city, especially in Northwest.

“They are a danger, [especially] to senior citizens,” said Lea, adding that there is “almost an epidemic of pit bulls in Northwest Roanoke.” Children are also at risk. Burcham asked all to call 911 immediately if you see a stray pit bull.

City Attorney Bill Hackworth said Roanoke has “a pretty good law on the books,” about controlling dangerous dogs. Lea suspects that some of the pit bulls running around are not licensed – making it difficult to track them to owners.