RHINELANDER - If you wait long enough, you could see Rhinelander city workers mowing your front lawn. But it's not free, and it's not a service they necessarily want to provide.
Streets Superintendent Tony Gilman has been named "Weed Commissioner" for the fourth year. That means he'll be on the lookout and taking calls for lawns with grass 12 inches or longer. Gilman says he gets dozens of calls from fed-up people each year.
"If your yard's neglected and your neighbor's is pretty nice, chances are at some point we're going to get a call from one of your neighbors that takes care of their yard," Gilman said.
Gilman's workers will mow the grass, document it with before-and-after pictures, and charge you a $200 fine. Any unpaid citations end up on the city tax rolls at the end of the year.
"It's really about respect--and the taller the weeds get, the more allergies can be affected of the neighbors," Gilman said. "There's plenty of other stuff we could be doing out there rather than mowing individual lawns."
Gilman says, beyond keeping the city neat, the system helps keep critters like mice and snakes at bay.
The city used to operate a warning system giving people written notice and 10 days to mow, but Gilman was sending out about 175 letters each year, which he said took away from other duties his department needs to manage. They mowed about 40 lawns in 2016.
"Fifty percent of the time we'll have someone stop us and say, 'I'll take care of it,' and so, if somebody wants to stop us or someone wants to call us and say, 'I know my grass is long. I'll be up there this weekend.' I'll give them that grace period," Gilman said.
Gilman hadn't received any complaints as of late last week, but he expects that to change soon.
If you have a problem yard in your neighborhood, call the Streets Department at 715-362-2728.