BLAIRSVILLE — Tom Goldberg cuts the grass every summer out back of the house that his mother, Portia Goldberg, owns at 319 N. Liberty St.
He actually mows down the strip of land behind about eight other neighbors’ homes as well, he says. All the land lies in the designated flood control area upstream of the Conemaugh Dam, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Goldberg pays $10 a year to be able to cut his grass, he told Blairsville Borough council Tuesday evening.
He doesn’t get a dime back for his efforts.
His problem — and the reason that brought him to council’s monthly business meeting — is that the government has ordered him to dial it back.
Traditionally, Goldberg said, he has cut the grass and foliage on about 150 feet of Army-controlled ground, all the way back to where Water Street used to cut through parallel to North Liberty Street, before the flood control project.
“I take care of everything,” Goldberg said.
But this month, the Corps of Engineers sent the annual permit application — the one that requires the $10 fee — that says he can mow the 65-foot width of his family’s property but only 54 feet back from Liberty Street instead of the full distance to the former Water Street. There’s a handwritten note, ordering him to “Please cease and desist all additional mowing beyond this point.”
Council should be concerned, Goldberg said.
“People walk their dogs out there,” he said. “If that grows up, there will be snakes and rats. And with all the drug use, if this grows out, this would be another place for them to go.”
Some nodded in agreement over his concern.
Borough Manager Tim Evans copied the handful of Goldberg’s documents and promised to call the local Corps of Engineers’ office at the Conemaugh Dam to get an understanding of the change.
One of the papers, an “Application for Shoreline Use Permit,” lays out the limits of what Goldberg is allowed to do on the government’s land, but it didn’t make clear the $10 fee.
Some on borough council theorized it might go toward a liability waiver.
Harold “Hap” Thomas annually cut the vegetation in that area, Goldberg said.
“He was elderly, retired,” Goldberg said. “He died about three or four years ago, so I took it over.”
Goldberg said he believes he is the only one on his block who actually pays the fee anymore.