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Ripon Police Chief Bill Wallner describes the grass clipping ordinance to the Common Council last week Tuesday as Ald. Jim Werch listens.

The Ripon Common Council last week Tuesday unanimously approved a grass clipping ordinance aimed at preventing grass clippings from getting blown into city streets.

If grass clippings are in the street for more than two hours, it is assumed that the property owner doesn’t intend to remove them, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance states that first-time offenders will receive a written warning, while subsequent offenses could result in fines.

For the first repeat offense, the fine is $150 plus costs, the second repeat offense is $250 plus costs, and a third repeat offense is $450 plus costs, the ordinance noted.

Police Chief Bill Wallner explained that the department has received numerous complaints about grass clippings in streets, which were previously addressed with the city’s littering ordinance.

Upon reviewing the littering ordinance, Wallner said there were concerns about the language and definition, so he worked with City Administrator Adam Sonntag to create an ordinance with clear language regarding grass clippings.

“Littering typically deals with solid waste and those types of things. If we got challenged on a citation that we happen to issue for this offense, it could create a problem for us with enforcement,” the police chief said. “This attempts to clean that up. I think just about every city, our size, probably has an ordinance like this.”

For the most part, the police department “has been very fortunate” that it rarely has to issue a citation for grass clipping violations, but the specific language makes it easier to address the problem, Wallner noted.

“We are all aware of the problems, environmentally, with discharging — especially for a community like us — discharging those lawn clippings into the roadway, into the sewers [creates] problems with our wastewater, and then eventually into area streams and lakes,” he said.

Before a written warning is issued, Wallner added that officers would provide an oral warning to a property owner.

“If we do get to the point where we do have to do enforcement, this is better than a littering citation, which could probably face a legal defense,” he said.

Ald. Jolene Schatzinger praised the ordinance and the police chief for looking after the environment as Ripon sits in the Green Lake watershed.

She read a statement from Green Lake Association Executive Director Stephanie Prellwitz, who also praised the ordinance.

“When improperly used by its residents, Ripon’s municipal storm drain system serves as a direct conduit of phosphorus pollution to Silver Creek and other smaller streams,” Prellwitz said. “Because Ripon is within the Green Lake watershed, this pollution makes its way from Silver Creek to Green Lake where it promotes weed and algae growth, consumes oxygen and harms its fishery.”

In other news

In other news from the Ripon Common Council meeting:

  • The Common Council approved a resolution authorizing interim financing for water and sewer in the Vermont Street/Parkway Terrace project. $1.5 million is required to fund project expenditures, which the city will borrow from Community Investors Bank. Those funds will be repaid by the Clean Water Fund and Safe Drinking Water Loan Program.
  • The Common Council also approved amending the city’s budget and finance director ordinance. It eliminates a three-quarter vote by the council for removal and makes the process of removing a finance director the same as other city employees.
  • In addition, it approved updating its alarm ordinance, which is out of date with modern technology. Wallner said the new ordinance cleans up language as the police department no longer monitors businesses’ alarms and many go through a private company.

Written By

Joe Schulz served as the reporter of the Green Laker in 2019 and 2020, before being hired as a reporter for the Commonwealth in October 2020. He is from Oshkosh and graduated from UW-Oshkosh in December with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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(1) comment

Jerald Davidson

Why not ban fertilizers, which are the source of the "pollution"?

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