Friday, June 24, 2011

The Other Man's Grass Is Always Greener

Mercifully, things are going so well for the populace of Phillipsburg New Jersey that its elected officials can devote their time and attention to critically important issues.....such as the height of Nicole Hodgskin's grass.  According to a story in the Express-Times, Hodgskin has not been living at the home she owns in P'Burg for some time.   She and her (soon to be former) husband are in the process of divorcing.  Exhibiting the communication skills that undoubtedly led to several minutes of happiness throughout the life span of their marriage, he was not staying at the home either.  He had apparently moved without telling her. 

Without boring you with the details or showing off too much of my vast knowledge of science, suffice it to say that when you have grass and you do not cut that grass, it tends to grow. 

Apparently it grew to a height at Nicole Hodgskin's home in P'Burg that it got the attention of the powers that be.  The Town sent her a "cut your grass or else" letter, which according to Hodgskin she was unaware of since she was already living "else" in elsewhere.  When she failed to respond to the letter or - more importantly from the Town's perspective - failed to cut her offending lawn, the Town took action.  They answered the question as to what was meant by "or else" in their notice to her.  What did P'Burg do?  It cut her grass. 

All kidding aside, given the time of year and the tendency of little winged and other vermin to take up root in areas where grass has overgrown, I understand the Town's concern.  Candidly, I would presume that Hodgskin's neighbors were none too disappointed to see the grass cut.  It probably helped them locate items that had been misplaced or mislaid for some time, such as small children and foreign-made compact automobiles (as if anyone in P'Burg would drive a foreign car!) and also assuaged their concerns that they or their loved ones would be attacked by a squadron of mosquitoes who had moved in next door. 

From my admittedly selfish perspective, the entertainment value of this story is not that the Town cut the lawn.  It is that the Town sent Nicole Hodgskin a bill in the amount of $650.00 to cover the cost of the cutting.  $650.00.  Hodgskin apparently has grass that would make Carl Spackler proud.  I hope to hell that Frank is now and remains forever unaware of this story.  I pay happily every week for the great job he does for me.  But at the rates charged by the Mayor Wyant of P'Burg I would be forced to either (a) go back to cutting my own grass; or (b) pouring concrete all over my property to replace the grass. 

And the Mayor's take on the amount of the bill that the Department of Public Works charged Hodgskin to cut her grass?  His was a reaction consistent with someone endowed at birth with a set made from pure titanium, "Based on the amount of employees and rain, we had to do our work orders on an overtime basis," Wyant said. "We also had to move debris from the property."  If any tax-paying resident of P'Burg ever is inclined to make an OPRA request for the DPW's personnel records and time sheets for this particular assignment, I hope that they receive them and publish them someplace.  Ought to make for some interesting reading.

The Town of Phillipsburg's tax rolls confirm that the Shangri-La in question is a 0.137 acre parcel of property - at least a portion of which is occupied presently (and presumably was on Shearing Day) by Hodgskin's house.  The same tax rolls confirm that in 2010 Hodgskin's estimated property tax was $5,056.66.  For those of you keeping score at home, on the Wyant Scale her estimated property tax last year was roughly the cost of eight Town-provided lawn cuttings.  Amazing.  Simply amazing.

The bad news for Hodgkins is that she will likely have to pay the bill.  The Town has apparently informed her that if she does not pay they will place a lien against the property - or even worse they will come out and cut the grass again.  Who the hell can afford to pay that bill a second time?  The good news?  Applications for the Phillipsburg Department of Public Works have gone up 478% since this story first appeared in the Express-Times earlier this week.  Who would not want to have a gig where the hourly rate for pushing a lawn mower is in excess of $100?  Besides, it gives the able-bodied men of P'Burg something to do until high school wrestling season starts - or until the annual Thanksgiving Day football game against Easton. 

My interview for a position is scheduled for Monday at 9:45.  I will be sure to let you know how it turns out.....

The other man's grass is always greener
The sun shines brighter on the other side
The other man's grass is always greener
Some are lucky, some are not
Just be thankful for what you've got.



Anonymous said...

The bill in this case is justified. Anyone who has moved out to another location would have mail forwarded (common sense??). As the property owner, she is ultimately responsible for the property and property's maintenance, divorce pending or not. And she was also aware the house was no longer occupied for months. That aside, fines from towns are often exorbitant. However, given the fact that laws regarding these issues are public, they shouldn't even have to send a notice 10 days prior. The property should be maintained according to the municipal requirements. End of story.

Adam Kenny said...

Thank you for taking the time to read and to contribute your point of view and insight. As noted in the piece, no argument as to propriety of town cutting grass. Likely an eyesore and a health issue. Amt of bill seems high. Maybe? Maybe not?

Anyway thanks again.