98-year-old man fined for grass clippings left outside home

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Penn. — A 98-year-old Pennsylvania man was fined by code enforcement officers. His violation? Grass clippings left outside his home.

South Williamsport’s code office does not give out warnings for snow removal or grass clipping violations. You immediately receive a fine, WNEP reports.

When Ernie Eakin received that fine in the mail last week he was surprised because he didn’t even know he violated an ordinance.

Ernie Eakin, a 98-year-old lifelong resident of South Williamsport, was fined by code enforcement officers. His violation? Grass clippings left outside his home.

At 98 years old, Ernie Eakin has called his house in South Williamsport home for nearly a century.

“I was born in this house. I’m getting to know it pretty well,” he said.

Last week, for the first time, the World War II veteran received a fine from South Williamsport’s code office because grass clippings from his property were on the roadway.

“Who cares if there’s a little bit of grass?” he asked. “The next wind puff is going to blow it away anyway.”

But Eakin says he isn’t upset about the fine; he’s already paid it.

“It’s not that it happened. It’s the way it happened.”

Unable to leave the house on his own, Eakin has a landscaper mow his lawn. He would have known about the violation sooner if someone knocked on the door.

“Come up to the door and say, ‘hey, you got a little too much grass laying on the curb out here. We’ll give you some time to get it off of there and then we take action after we don’t move,’ and that would be fine,” Eakin said.

We spoke with the code enforcement officer in South Williamsport. He says he tries to treat each of his cases the same and that means when he hands out those fines, he doesn’t knock on doors.

The code enforcement officer tells Newswatch 16 if he knocked on one door, he’d have to knock on them all.

According to the officer, borough council has given him orders to enforce the yard waste and disposal ordinance in South Williamsport because of a federal push to prevent pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

This ordinance helps keep chemicals in the grass clippings from reaching the river.

“The trash that goes into those drains, the plastic, the cigarette butts some of the local businesses that dump right into the drains that are marked straight to the river, I think those are a little more important than a couple pieces of grass,” said Eakin’s daughter Kathy Steinbacher.

Ernie Eakin has paid his $25 fine.

A South Williamsport borough council member says he plans to look into the ordinance to see if changes should be made.