Mayor Sandy Stimpson and his administration are looking into a plan to contract out mowing work along some of the city’s busiest thoroughfares in order to allow staff to focus on maintenance of parks.
Stimpson announced the plan Tuesday during a pre-council meeting, after councilman John Williams asked about complaints he’d received from residents in regards to the length of grass in rights-of-way and ditches.
Stimpson wants to start by outsourcing the work along 18 thoroughfares which handle 20,000 cars a day or more, stretching across all seven districts in the city. He hopes to expand the program to include less-traveled streets as soon as next spring.
“We see grass growing high and ugly just like you do,” he said during remarks at the beginning of the council’s regularly scheduled meeting. “The vision is to get the grass cut in a timely fashion … That’s where we’re headed.”
The plan, according to Stimpson, is to cut grass on rights-of-way every seven days, instead of every 21 days, as is the practice now. The grass in ditches would be cut every 30 days, instead of every 120 to 160 days, which is the case now.
The public works department simply doesn’t have the staff members to deal with all of the grass the city is responsible for, said Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper.
“We are 43 mower personnel short to maintain the 1,153 parcels that need mowing,” Cooper said.
Cooper said bids for the work would be handled through a request for proposals process. The council would vote to accept the bid. The projected cost of the proposal wasn’t released.
The areas the city will focus on first are as follows: U.S. Highway 90 from Eslava Creek to Bellingrath Road, Airport Boulevard from Florida Street to west of Dawes Road, University Boulevard and Demetropolis Road from Moffat Road to U.S. Highway 90, Hillcrest Road from Airport to Girby Road, Cottage Hill from Montlimar Creek to Hillcrest Road, Dauphin Street from Mobile Street to McGregor Avenue, Spring Hill Avenue from North Catherine Street to Mobile Street, Canal Street from South Broad to Water Street, South Claiborne Street from Monroe Street to Jackson Street, South Conception Street from Jackson Street to Church Street, Water Street from Canal Street to Beauregard Street, Beauregard Street from Water Street to Broad, North Lawrence Street from Beauregard Street to Congress Street, North Broad from Beauregard Street to Canal Street, Dauphin Island Parkway from Gosson Street to Faye Street and Michigan Avenue from South Broad to California Street.
In other business, the council approved a new stormwater management plan that was part of a lawsuit settlement the city made with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. The new plan allows the city to do more inspections of construction sites and puts more restrictions on large industrial sites.
The council also moved about $225,000 from Mobile Fire-Rescue Department capital funds from completed projects to MFRD capital funds to be used for infrastructure improvements.
The projects include roof repairs to Station 21, concrete apron repairs to Stations 14 and 23, generator repair to Stations 11 and 14 and renovations to Stations 14, 23 and to the central fire station.
The funds will also be used in a contract with Johnson Controls for an upgrade to the security and fire panel at the History Museum of Mobile and a contract with VFP Fire Systems for fire sprinkler system repairs and inspections at various city buildings.
The council heard from Dauphin Street resident Sara McCoy, who complained about Alabama Power trimming an oak tree in her fenced yard. She told councilors that the tree service “butchered” the tree at the intersection of Dauphin Street and McPhillips Avenue. She said she wasn’t pleased with the response of the city’s urban forestry department.
She asked the city to place a moratorium on the cutting of trees until the issue is resolved through a review by the administration. City Attorney Ricardo Woods told councilors that the trimming of trees by Alabama Power is part of a state statute and the council didn’t have the authority to have it stopped. Woods said the city did have some influence when it came to aesthetics.
“The policy Alabama Power uses has been in place for a long time,” Stimpson said. “We will have to review the policy.”
McCoy asked the city to look into increasing the frequency of trimming from once every five years to once every two to three years. Stimpson said the cost of an increase in trimming would have to be considered.