Cornwall council cuts back on grass trimming despite tick concerns

The grass will be allowed to grow a little longer in Cornwall, Ont., this summer despite concerns from public health officials and one councillor that it could expose residents to ticks.

Councillor and public health agency warn against changes meant to save money

Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. They have become much more prevalent in Eastern Ontario. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

The grass will be allowed to grow a bit longer in Cornwall, Ont., this summer despite concerns from public health officials and one councillor that it could expose residents to ticks.

Coun. André Rivette unsuccessfully implored fellow councillors in a meeting Monday to cancel $107,500 worth of proposed cuts to the maintenance budget that will reduce lawn cutting.

Prior to the meeting, Rivette told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning he believes in a lean budget, but this cut just didn't make sense.

"It's our responsibility to cut costs somewhere, but not at the expense of the general public health," he said. "When we put programs on in a park you are telling people who are using the park that it's safe to use."

During a council budget meeting Monday evening, he continued to make the same case.

He said it was a case of keeping the status quo rather than cutting back.   

"All we are saying is not to expand, just to maintain what we have," he said.  

Doctor's orders 

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, the medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, also encouraged council to reconsider after Rivette asked him for an opinion.

In a letter, he said keeping grass short can reduce the habitat available for ticks.

"I would recommend that the City of Cornwall not reduce their lawn/grass mowing activities, as leaving the grass tall would increase the risk of tick growth," he wrote.

Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy said it was something the city could revisit if residents are concerned, but the risks from ticks come from all over.

"It's not just a growing problem on city streets or city parks," he said.

City staff told councillors the reduced mowing will involve mowing less often in some places, as well as simply allowing more natural conditions in other parks.

In the end, the maintenance changes were approved, while passing the overall budget was pushed back two weeks to April 30 to allow councillors to make other adjustments.