DIGGING DEEPER: A growing problem

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 10:40 PM CDT
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QUINCY (WGEM) - With city leaders looking for outside investors to develop everything from hotel rooms, affordable housing, to new franchises, the question is simple; In its current condition, would you want to invest in Quincy? Is the city really putting its best foot forward, or has the gem city lost its luster?

It’s a problem you can see sprouting up on just about any street corner, parking lot, or sidewalk in downtown Quincy, weeds! They’re everywhere and residents like Kevin Blickhan are taking notice.

“This is not a gem city anymore,” Blickhan said. “This is not an all American city when it looks like this.”

Whether you drive by the sidewalks and curbs at 18th and Broadway, the city owned parking lots, or sidewalks in front of downtown businesses, the weeds have gotten out of control.

“The main thoroughfares, north, south, east, and west need to get cleaned up.” Blickhan said, “The city needs to take leadership on that. Community service groups could get involved. Neighborhood groups working together.”

He worries the weeds and a lack of maintenance could eventually become a more costly problem for taxpayers.

“If you have enough of this overgrowth. Eventually it is going to break-down the curbs,” Blickhan said. “Then you have the cost of the new curbs and the cost of tearing all the sidewalks up, it’s a never-ending battle and I don’t think there is a plan.”

WGEM News went to the city to see what the plan is, and Michael Seaver, the director of Inspection and Enforcement for Quincy, said the city doesn’t have it under control.

“A lot of days we only have one person out there addressing work orders.” Seaver said, “A lot of the other times we’ll borrow staff from other crews, the concrete crew, the forestry and garbage crews, but that isn’t always possible, so some days there is only one person addressing those.”

One person, to maintain and address repeated scenes of abundant weed overgrowth throughout the city.

Since January of this year, his office has received 681 nuisance related cases, 117 work orders for tall weeds or trash have been completed, and there are 61 open work orders.

We asked Seaver if downtown could be in better shape and who should be responsible?

“We’re talking about public right of way. Legally there may not be a responsibility for the adjacent property owners to maintain those, but traditionally they have.” Seaver said, “It is just a matter of civic pride. For whatever reason this year it is not occurring at the rate it should”

He admits, it isn’t a good look for the city. Even the city-owned parking lot within eye-shot of city hall is unkept and has weeds measuring more than 40 inches. Meaning city leaders walk past them everyday.

“These parking lots are owned by the city,” Seaver said. “A lot of the mowing services around the parking lots have been outsourced.”

City ordinances said weeds need to be less than 10 inches tall. It was clear from our meeting with Blickhan, some areas aren’t even close as we found weeds measuring well past the ordinance.

It’s clear, the problem won’t be taken care of overnight.

However, the city encourages everyone to do their part. Picking weeds on your curb, or around sidewalks to pick-up where the city falls short.

“All along the right of way, it extends ten feet behind the curb. It includes that city sidewalk.” Seaver said, “Everybody should feel some responsibility to maintain that area.”

There are groups in the city that gather to do city cleanups, but not necessarily weed control.

Tieraney Craig is a local business owner in the District and recently held a clean-up that focused on trash. She said, however, a group effort to control weeds is also needed.

“It’s not the best look, I know the city is tied financially and with manpower, but we really do want to put our best foot forward, and that isn’t the best look.” Craig said.

Blickhan said, something needs to be done.

“I just really think there needs to be more incentive to work together, number one,” Blickhan said. “Number two, triple the fines. they just bounce through these little fines.”

The city contracts out many properties to private companies. The Amtrak station and water tower properties are just a couple in that situation.

With that said, what we found was no one city agency seems to be in charge of the weed problem.

Central services, Engineering, the Parks Department and Inspection and Enforcement, all seem to play various roles.

However, in the end, they’re looking to you, the property owner, to help maintain the curbs and sidewalks around your neighborhood.

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