Mowing down big grass costs

·2 min read

An early termination of a grass-cutting contract by Mollards Groundskeeping means the plan to use the fancy new mower for all Township land will start a year early. It could also mean saving up to $300,000 over eight years.

The zero-turn lawn mower was recently bought to maintain Kerwood Park’s grass and to drag the baseball diamonds starting this year.

It was expected to take over other duties when the Mollards contract expired in 2024. But now Township staff will be spending time riding the mower over lawns at 13 properties including cemeteries, three public works facilities, the municipal office, Kerwood wastewater treatment plant, Kerwood firehall, Kerwood Park and Crathie Hall.

Staff took over the job after they found out about the cancelled deal in April.

“While staff have been cutting and trimming the grass, we have been tracking time, fuel usage, and labour costs to better understand the costs required to potentially bring the service in-house. Staff have also considered general maintenance and upkeep of the equipment required,” public works manager Coulter Cahill told council at its May 15 meeting.

“Through this analysis staff have determined that bringing the grass cutting in-house makes better economic sense and ensures a high level of service is maintained, including our response times to customer complaints,” he added.

Estimated cost of contracting out over the next eight years using $70 per hour is $341,653. The estimated cost to move service in-house over the next eight years is $245,979, a saving of $95,674. Eight years was used as a guess on how long mowers would last.

Cahill also said to maintain service and continuity of grass cutting throughout the year, the Township will need to purchase a landscaping trailer and second smaller lawn mower. The total capital costs for the new equipment are estimated to be $25,700. However, staff are only recommending purchasing the landscape trailer in 2023 to stay in budget.

Treasurer Johnny Pereira said the amount saved is a conservative estimate.

“If we had to go out and hire a part-time person over the summer months, we would still be ahead by $95,000,” said Pereira.

With efficiencies found by Cahill using only Township staff, Pereira said taxpayers could save $300,000.

“We all know when you’re trying to get people to work, there is a labour challenge out there. So if we can maximize the hours that our employees [work] … at the end of the day there’s always room for improvement,” said Mayor Sue Clarke.

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner