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Marilla exploring lawn mowing options

An exploration by Marilla officials into lawn maintenance services may have led them back to their starting point.

The task of cutting the lawns at town hall, the community center and other town-owned properties falls under the supervision of highway superintendent Ronald Unverdorben, who also supervises sanitation and maintenance of town buildings and grounds.

However, with his crews already spread thinly, Unverdorben is looking for relief.

Instead of adding an employee, the council last month agreed to supervisor Earl Gingerich’s suggestion to solicit quotes for lawn service, an idea that didn’t sit well with Unverdorben.

“How is that going to save the town money?” Unverdorben asked.

When it came time to accept the quotes at Thursday’s monthly meeting, the board chose not to act. Councilman Randy Reichert suggested it may be more cost-effective for the town to retain the lawn maintenance.

Unverdorben has an employee who works five hours per day who he would like to make full-time.

Reichert said after he crunched numbers, appointing that employee to full-time status may be more cost-effective.

“Ron’s asked for us to take his part-time guy and make him full-time,” Reichert said. “What that amounts to is three hours a day.”

Reichert said the three daily hours equates to 780 over the course of a year, and a conservative estimate puts lawn mowing at about 180 hours.

The lowest quote sent to the town was $6,895 to cut the grass 25 times.

“That’s nothing extra,” Reichert noted. “If we need them to come down for extra cuts or for special events, we’d have to add to that total.”

Reichert said bringing the part-time employee to full-time status would cost Marilla about $20,000.

While that’s more than the lawn care quote, Reichert said there are ancillary benefits to making the employee full-time by putting his remaining hours to good use. For example, there are instances when the town highway crew is pulled from its duties to perform maintenance, for which employees are paid a higher fee.

Also, Unverdorben is often taken away from his superintendent duties to perform work alongside his staff, which prevents him from properly managing the department.

“When you have the opportunity to take the time to actually manage, you can increase the productivity of all your guys,” Reichert said, “not by making them work harder, but by helping them be prepared.”

Reichert said increasing productivity equates to several hundred more man-hours with the existing staff, which would provide the highway and buildings and grounds departments with flexibility to accomplish tasks that have been neglected.

“I used to do a lot of that work,” Reicher said. “I used to weedwhack around the guardrails and paint the guardrails, stuff like that. Ron said they just don’t have the time to get to it.”

Factoring in the additional man-hours, Reichert’s tally put the savings for the town at more than $25,000.

The council will review the figures and hope to have a decision at its May meeting.