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Grass cut, not costs

City spends $9,000 for new lawnmower

May 19, 2010 - Is $9,000 too much for a city lawnmower used once a week? Clarkston resident Steve Coventry thinks so.

"We have zero money for police protection but grass cutting has a higher priority, and (DPW Director) Bob Pursley gets whatever he wants," said Coventry.

After two failed attempts to outsource lawn mowing to a private company at a previous meeting, Clarkston Department of Public Works (DPW) sought bids for lawnmowers.

According to Pursley's report, the city's 14-year-old Button mower is "tired and breakdowns are common place." He also said parts are not available anymore.

"I have had to manufacture parts myself several times to keep this mower working," Pursley said. "In the last couple of years we seem to spend more time working on it rather than mowing."

Companies that bid include Ferris, Exmark, and John Deer. Ferris offered two models, one the high bid of $9,285, and the winning low bid, $8,295. Both prices included a leaf-grass bagging unit. The council approved the lowest bid, Ferris model on a 3-2 vote at the May 10 meeting. Councilmen Chuck Inabnit and Jim Brueck voted "no."

Council members Peg Roth and Mike Gawronski were absent.

Pursley recommended the more expensive Ferris model because it had a larger motor and handled a hill behind City Hall better, as well as a "much better floating suspension for the mower and cutting deck."

"If all the mowers are capable of doing the job, why wouldn't we go with the least expensive one," asked Councilman Steve Hargis.

City Manager Dennis Ritter said it was Pursley's opinion the higher model Farris was "the most suitable for long-term use."

Inabnit, who works for a landscape company, said all the mowers should last a long time because they're commercial grade mowers. He noted the guys at his company put 13-14 hours a day on their mowers, five days a week.

"I don't agree spending the extra $1,000 just for the durability," he said. "That's nonsense when you're dealing with this type of equipment."

Resident and former Councilman Cory Johnston was appalled the council turned down privatizing for a cheaper bid, and then wants to ask voters to approve a higher millage rate, but turn around and spend money on an "unbudgeted item."

"You're not saving money, you're already spending the millage you don't have," he said. "This is not budgeted. I can't believe you're even addressing this, save us some money please."

Ritter said they will see some cost savings due to a full-time DPW employee quitting and replacing him with a part-time employee, which will save on wages and health insurance cost.

Clerk/Treasurer Jan Gillespie estimated savings between $8,500 and $9,000.

As far as the item not being budgeted, Ritter said Johnston was "absolutely right."

"It hasn't been budgeted and those things frequently occur during the course of the business year," he said. "As everybody here knows a budget is a very best guess we can come up with at the time we adopt it."

Brueck believes there is an alternative.

"My suggestion of the things to would be to contract the service for a year. Let things kind of cool off, see where the budget is going, see what happens with the millage and etc," Brueck said. "Put off a capital expenditure of almost $9,000 and we would only pay $4,500 for the bid."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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