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Private mower hired for city parks
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Grass growing in 14 city parks and at other city facilities will be mowed by a maintenance landscaping firm instead of city personnel.

Last week the Ceres City Council approved a contract with Valley Scapes to mow and edge the parks for a cost of $3,378 per week or $135,120 annually.

City officials say the city will save money when compared to costs of having city staff continuing to do the work.
The contract would not only result in a $10,000 savings in city labor costs but also increase efficiencies by decreasing wear and tear on city equipment and increase staffing flexibility. Acting City Manager Art deWerk noted that a contractor would be obligated to provide the service whereas city staff absences can and does cause delays in services.

City Engineer Toby Wells said the city had been "wrestling with how to get our parks in tip-top shape" and came up with the idea of contracting for service.

"Contracting out basic lawn mowing services has worked well for a number of cities and resulted in overall cost savings," said Wells. "This has allowed existing staff to concentrate on other maintenance activities that require higher skill levels."

Because of the savings under the contract, the city will hire a full-time "working" parks supervisor to supervise parks workers and all contractors. Currently two city supervisorial staff members have stepped in to help oversee parks maintenance. DeWerk said Code Enforcement Officer Frank Alvarez has been "run into the ground" to help maintain parks. Alvarez needs to get back to code enforcement activities, he said. Jeremy Damas, who is deputy director of Public Works, also has been out on a mower.

The contract calls for the mowing of Costa Fields and River Bluff Regional Park soccer fields twice per week, on Mondays and Thursdays before 2 p.m.

Costs per park are broken down in the contract. Mowing Riverbluff twice a week costs $900 per week while Smyrna Park costs $390 per week. Costa Fields is $492 because it is mowed twice a week. The smallest park, Redwood Park, is being mowed for $70 per week.

Mowing will also occur at City Hall, the Whitmore triangle, Community Center, American Legion Memorial Building, the Daniel Whitmore house and the water tower site.

The highest bidder was Central Valley Landscape which bid $14,410 per week.