McMullen: Let’s nip this clipping business in the bud

May 21, 2013

“I thought it was against the law to throw your grass clippings in the streets. Take a trip down 16th Street by the fairgrounds and the sidewalks are covered in grass and it is four or five feet into the street. It really looks bad,” insisted one caller in the most recent edition of the Sedline.

We should be thankful for these government watchdogs, for eternal vigilance is the only thing standing between society and complete yard waste anarchy.

Sedalia’s finest aren’t going to haul you away for clipping carelessness. But it is most certainly against the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sedalia.

It can be found in section 48-30, in the second section of the 48th chapter, “Solid Waste”: “It shall be unlawful for any person to:”

“To dispose of any garbage, refuse or mixed refuse by depositing it in any public or private street or roadway...”

The code’s definition of solid waste includes yard wastes, and “Yard wastes means grass clippings, leaves, tree trimmings.”

Yes, I saw that they cut the grass at the Missouri State Fairgrounds last week. Most of us probably did, because it’s hard for any Sedalian to go a week without using the stretch of 16th Street that runs against the fairgrounds. And yes, I saw that they were leaving significant piles of grass on one of the city’s busiest streets.

I suppose it reflects badly when you break city ordinance, and it reflects even worse when you do it on prime Sedalia real estate. You should probably realize that someone is going to notice.

Yes, Sedline caller, who, over the last few years, has repeatedly called out various locations and organizations for leaving their grass clippings in the street, you’re technically right. Nobody is above the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sedalia. Or nobody should be, anyhow.

But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to justify our own actions just because we see other people getting away with it. There are probably a fair amount of people in this city that have never even bothered to peruse the ordinances that govern their city. There are probably people here who break codes daily without even realizing it.

Take, for example, “Sec. 50-28. — Removal of snow from private property onto streets.”:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to remove snow from any private property onto any public street or alley, or any other public place, in the city.”

Yes, technically you’re not suppose to shovel your snow into the street. I know some of you do it — I know others only do it with that last line of snow. But guilty is guilty.

Or maybe this: “Sec. 50-24. — For washing, etc., of motor vehicles prohibited.

It shall be unlawful for any person to wash or cause to be washed, by use of water, any motor vehicle in or upon any public sidewalk or street within the city, or in such close proximity or adjacent to any public sidewalk or public street within the city so as to cause or allow any water and its collected refuse, if any, to run over, upon or across any public street or sidewalk within the city.”

Your soapy water betrays you!

The code is full of ordinances that are less strictly enforced than some of the more immediately important regulations. People will continue to get away with it mostly scot-free and life will go on, but that still doesn’t mean we should do it.

Grass clippings don’t just disappear. Sure, they are biodegradable and will eventually rot back into the earth, but on the way back to nature it accumulates and puts unnecessary strain on our storm water drainage system. I don’t see it as a beauty issue, because I don’t think that “street with grass” is any more or less ugly than “street, but it is important to prevent flooding: On Sunday we saw just how quickly we can get inundated with water.

The storm drains are already going to be gummed up with litter and other things that get caught up in the surprisingly powerful flow of the street gutter streams.

Now I’m not saying that you’ve got to bag up all the grass and waste the gas to make a trip down to the city yard waste lot — unless you have a fancy robot mower that handles every step of that process for you.

The next time you mow your grass, just grab a broom and sweep the stuff from the street back up into your yard. It acts as a fertilizer for the grass that is still living — but the most important thing is that it doesn’t break ordinance and it doesn’t clog up the storm drains.