Lawrence County gets tough on weed enforcement

September 1, 2018

DEADWOOD — The Lawrence County Invasive Species Management board is taking noxious weeds head-on.

The board began by holding property holders in the county more accountable, with a decision July 19 to approve enforcement proceedings on Regional Health and James McDermott. The board also moved to start voluntary control notice/enforcement procedures on Terry Peak Subdivision, as well as approving a county enforcement rate of $200 per hour, plus the cost of herbicide and application of the statutorily allowed 10 percent surcharge on the total, with a $1,000 minimum fee for any remedial work the department does in an enforcement.

Invasive Species Manager Dave Heck, along with Commissioner Randy Deibert, reported to the Lawrence County Commission July 24 of the board’s recent decisions

“We approved a couple of enforcements and we talked about the Terry Peak lots, of which there is several hundred,” said Deibert.

Heck clarified that there are 426 Terry Peak lots at risk of going into enforcement.

“We’ll have to contract it done,” said Heck. “We’re looking at $120,000 plus herbicide, plus the 10 percent.”

“So, we thought since it was $140,000, paid out and then eventually returned, if we did it in the spring, we want to make sure it’s in the budget cycle, that’s why we put it on the agenda today,” Deibert said.

“There are two enforcements that have progressed to the stage where, and we talked to the sheriff’s office this morning, they’re ready to be served personally,” said Lawrence County Deputy State’s Attorney Bruce Outka. “Then the rest, these 400 and some, they’re at a different stage of the process and so one thing to think about, maybe, during your budget discussions today is there is a fair amount of paperwork and things to be managed with all that. That would probably, really ought to be in place, before you jump into that … there will be more work involved through the auditor’s office, the treasurer’s office, collecting money and of accounts and things like that.

Letters were sent to the majority of landowners at Terry Peak.

“More out of state than in-state,” Heck said. “Those have to be served by the sheriff in-state, and we’ll have to make arrangements to send them out of state.”

Following discussion regarding proceeding with enforcement yet this year, for which weed treatment likely wouldn’t take place until October, the commission decided to discuss how to proceed with the daunting task of hundreds of enforcements over the winter and shoot for next spring to move on them.

“It would just be so much better if I could do all the letters this winter and then have it all set up in place to go this spring,” Heck said.

Commissioner Brandon Flanagan asked if there can be notice given one season and then enforcement a different season.

“The intent was to give Dave some ability to adapt in the complaint and I was fine with this spring, so I’m advocating waiting for the spring to start the process,” Deibert said. “We’ve got two other enforcements that we’ve issued. One is for Regional. One is for McDermott. They’re going to cost money too, but just not as much.”

Heck said those two enforcements can be done in-house.

“I still have staff on hand. They’re not very large in size. One’ll probably take half a day. The other will probably take a couple days. But those aren’t problems because we’ve got staff on hand.”

“Because it impacts county spending, we thought it was imperative to bring it to the board,” Diebert said.

Heck said the two that can be taken care of this year will not impact the department budget.

“We’ve got the herbicide and labor is a non-issue,” Heck said. “The other one, Terry Peak, that’s a big deal.”

Deibert said the new parameters for the enforcements are an attempt for the county to start somewhere in mitigating the noxious weed problem in the county and to gain compliance from landowners.

“This is a result of the work we’ve put together. This is a try and an effort on an existing subdivision that has a severe problem,” Deibert said. “It’s kind of litmus test of whether it’s going to work or not. We’ll still have more discussions. I know the sheriff’s going to have a lot of work, here, so, over the winter, we discuss that process and try to make it as efficient as possible.”

Outka pointed out that state statute says the weed department shouldn’t be competing with private applicators.

“I think, with respect to the two that you’re talking about, Dave has had contact with the private applicator in the area and they’re scheduled out, so we’re really not competing with anybody, so I don’t expect an issue in that regard.”

Heck reiterated that the board made a motion to accept a $200 an hour charge to spray on enforcements if the county has to do the work.

“They also accepted the 10 percent surcharge the state allows, plus herbicide and they also put in a $1,000 minimum,” Heck said. “So, moving back to Terry Peak, that would be $426,000.”

“The reason that was put it is that if we’re only charging them a hundred bucks, they’re not going to do it themselves,” Deibert said. “They’re going to use the county to do it, so you put a minimum charge on there of $1,000 per lot.”

“So you’re telling me that one lot at Terry Peak is going to get charged $1,000?” asked Flanagan.

“If we have to spray it,” Deibert said.

“If they go to enforcement,” Heck said.

Outka said he would like to, over the winter, speak with Heck and reflect on the minimum fee amount.

“The goal is not to spray weeds on private land,” Deibert said. “They should be spraying it themselves and they should do it voluntarily.”

“That’s not necessarily a good thought, though,” said Commissioner Richard Sleep. “Because they don’t spray normally and if the weed department does spray, they would do a better job than the individual.”

“Yeah, people are going to go down to the hardware store and buy a little sprayer and may or may not kill anything,” said Commissioner Daryl Johnson. “That’s a unique situation up there.”

“It will apply county-wide. To every subdivision. To every landowner,” Heck said.

Weed enforcement was ramped up to battle the most problematic weeds in Lawrence County, which include tansy, St. Johnswort, and leafy spurge.

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