Cash-strapped cities are having to dig deep to come up with funds to do jobs that have been cut out of state budgets — like cutting grass along roads.
The Illinois Department of Transportation told cities that it will only be able to afford to mow the grass along interstates and state highways twice this summer, according to O'Fallon Finance Director Dean Rich.
Either local governments mow the grass or the doorsteps of their community become unsightly messes.
"We mowed before the Harley Owners Group Rally and bicycle races" earlier this month, Rich said. "We're going to have more than 1,000 people in town, and many of them have never been here before. So is that what we want them to see? We want them to want to come back to O'Fallon."
Dennis Sullivan, O'Fallon City Engineer and Public Works Department director, said Parks and Recreation Department workers are forced to use equipment meant to mow baseball fields and park land to mow high weeds and brush along Interstate 64 and its ramps.
"We had a machine down because it's meant to handle stuff that's maybe a foot tall and we're using it to cut down stuff that's 2 feet tall," Sullivan said. "But we have to do it. O'Fallon counts on the businesses on Central Park Drive and Regency Park Drive. The impression a lot of people get of those businesses is the 20 seconds they see them when they're driving by on the interstate."
O'Fallon Parks and Recreation Department Director Mary Jeanne Hutchison estimated the city will spend about $5,000 this year on the mowing and trash cleanup in the area. She said a lot of the work is done by workers the city already has on staff, they're just being shifted around to get the highway mowing done.
"We're trying to clean it up, trying to fix it with a minimal amount of money," Hutchison said. "And we're hoping the businesses in the area can help us out a little bit with the mowing, too. But we're not digging into new money. There is no new money."
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