Downtown overgrowth highlights need for more groundskeepers

Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013 8:48 PM
Last updated 11:22 PM
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For the past week, Mary Stephens has walked the median parting Greene Street, collecting trash to add to a small cardboard box she placed beneath a nearby oak tree last week.

The daily gesture is not about litter control, the resident said.

It’s about getting the attention of the city’s 12 groundskeepers.

“Maybe now, they’ll know someone’s here and come by more often,” Stephens said, dropping an empty soda can and open candy bar wrapper into her collection.

For nearly two decades, Stephens has watched from a downtown park bench as the two-mile stretch of island walkway extending along Broad and Greene streets has become an overgrown jungle.

In the mid-1990s, the resident said she would encounter a city groundskeeper three to four times a week, working hard to make downtown a calm and comforting place where people wanted to come sit and relax.

Now, she sees fewer maintenance workers and more weeds that than workers, a problem that has enveloped various pockets of the city, most notable at the on and off ramps of Gordon Highway, the shoulders along Riverwatch Parkway and the curbs lining Tobacco Road.

A city supervisor said Tuesday that local government is doing the best it can to keep Augusta’s roads, ramps and walkways at their best, but that a wetter-than-usual summer, paired with a rather limited maintenance agreement with the Georgia Department of Transportation can make such a task difficult.

“I love downtown. It’s where everyone goes,” Stephens said. “But lately, the city has not sent out enough people to make the streets look as nice as they once did. They could do a better job.”

Right-of-way and median maintenance is a responsibility spread across three department budgets in Augusta.

The Recreation, Parks and Facilities department assumes the lead role in the effort, employing eight groundskeepers at its maintenance shop – at a combined salary of $187,000 – to mow, spray, edge and prune the county’s island walkways, city records show.

City gateways and drainage zones typically get priority, as well as downtown, where Maintenance Shop Operations Supervisor Sam Smith said his staff spends 90 percent of its time, working with inmate crews from the Richmond County Correctional Institute to groom highway medians.

“If we’re not downtown, we’re on the Hill,” Smith said.

Smith said maintaining Augusta’s public areas is a full-time task that has the supervisor seeking five more groundskeepers to hire and help his staff with the work.

The Engineering and Public Works departments each staff two groundskeepers. But according to city records, public works concentrates on roads and walkways, while engineering deals with levee banks and off ramps.

Complicating the problem is the Department of Transportation, which only covers 13.6 miles of public maintenance in Richmond County – the third lowest mileage total out of the 10 Georgia cities that receive a share of the $1 million in-state assistance to help mow, clean, and re-seed or re-sod municipal right-of-ways, shoulders and ditches.

Smith said his office rarely receives complaints from residents or business owners and that it works with Old Towne Association to ensure islands are kept cut and trimmed.

“Sure, we get behind sometimes when the weather is rainier than normal, but all we can do is put forth our best effort and try to stay ahead of it,” Smith said. “Sometimes that can get to be difficult.”

DOT MAINTENANCE AGREEMENTS
CityMiles of roadAnnual cost
Columbus98$343,665
Albany42.7$149,432
Rome34.7$121,310
Savannah32$112,245
Valdosta25.8$90,405
Blakely24.1$84,350
Glynn County22.3$58,353
Augusta-Richmond County13.6$47,600
Tifton10$37,330
Brunswick9.75$25,646

Source: Georgia Department of Transportation

PARDON OUR MESS

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Comments (11) Add comment
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just an opinion
2718
Points
just an opinion 09/03/13 - 09:28 pm
3
1
Prisoners, Prisoners, Prisoners

We have tons of them. Put them on the streets everyday picking up trash! They should have to work like the rest of us!

corgimom
34164
Points
corgimom 09/04/13 - 04:00 am
0
3
You can't make them, it's

You can't make them, it's illegal to use chain gangs anymore. And you need a deputy to guard them, and RC doesn't have enough deputies as it is.

Privy
104
Points
Privy 09/04/13 - 06:08 am
2
0
There are enough

Guards to watch inmate/detail crews. Each guard now is assigned 6 to 8 detainees, sometimes less for sickness, release etc. That's 6 to 8 extra bodies per crew. No one asked how many crews were in Recreation and other departments throughout the city departments.

Has no one ever seen the trustees that work w/out guards? I've seen a few out along the roads. How many there are actually is unknown to me.

Each department head needs to give a list to the administrator as what the detail crews are assigned and the priorities as they see them. Bet they have no scheduled time that they should be at each location. It's all by the seat of the pants. There is a person working in the administrators office that could oversee the details as the administrator refocuses on the priorities.

Why was the administer not asked these questions? Because he really has no clue as to what the departments are actually doing or how. Put all the department heads in with the administrators office along with their administrative assistants Make them accountable for the departments that they run.

There are detail crews cutting grass with weed eaters in the medians/boulevard's but if you look closely when you see them you will notice that the crew is to large to be doing what needs to be done in the area. Before details were used there was one person riding a mower and two trimmers on each side of the medians.

The department heads, administrator and commission need to be on the same page. Without a plan there is just confusion.

I could go on and on...

Little Lamb
46976
Points
Little Lamb 09/04/13 - 07:54 am
2
0
Agreement

The third-to-last paragraph is just plopped in there with no context, no clarification, no explanation. The paragraph does not lead anywhere. And the sidebar table at the end of the story does not help.

Does the DOT actually do the mowing along the 13.6 miles in the agreement, or does the DOT merely send Augusta government $47,600 to have Augusta government do the mowing?

itsanotherday1
45445
Points
itsanotherday1 09/04/13 - 10:16 am
1
0
You cannot compel prisoners

You cannot compel prisoners to work, but I wager the majority welcome the opportunity to get outside the jail walls for some fresh air. Too, for some of the more minor infractions like drug possession, the judges could hand out community service time instead of jail time. I had as soon get 6 months of road work out of some kid as have him sit in jail learning how to be a better criminal.

Little Lamb
46976
Points
Little Lamb 09/04/13 - 11:41 am
1
0
Divide C2 by B2

It's been a while since I did a table in XHTML, and I've never tried one here in Drupal, but here goes:

GovernmentMiles of roadAnnual Cost$ per MileColumbus98$343,665$3,507Albany42.7$149,432$3,500Rome34.7$121,310$3,496Savannah32$112,245$3,508Valdosta25.8$90,405$3,504Blakely24.1$84,350$3,500Glynn County22.3$58,353$2,617Augusta13.6$47,600$3,500Tifton10$37,330$3,500Brunswick9.75$25,646$2,630

You can see that Augusta is not being treated unfairly. It appears the DOT has a cost per mile that it applies with reasonable uniformity. The offset for Brunswick and Glynn County would appear to be taken care of by realizing that Brunswick is in Glynn County. Don't you get sick and tired of Augusta government officials here whining about how they are treated unfairly by everyone under the sun?

Little Lamb
46976
Points
Little Lamb 09/04/13 - 11:33 am
1
0
Oooops

Well, I see that Drupal does not parse tables the same way that standard XHTML browsers do, because the table displayed just fine in the Chrome browser.

Anyway, the point I was trying to show was that if you divide the Dollars in the table above by the miles of road in the table above, you get right at about $3,500 dollars per mile (except for Brunswick and Glynn Co. where it is $2,600 each).

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 09/04/13 - 12:28 pm
2
0
I'd just implement the

I'd just implement the strategy that they use during the early part of April. Seems that method is the best option.

Little Lamb
46976
Points
Little Lamb 09/04/13 - 02:54 pm
1
0
OCD

Okay, here are the data I calculated from the table above:

Government - - - - - - - - Cost per Mile
Columbus - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $3,507
Albany - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $3,500
Rome - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $3,496
Savannah - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $3,508
Valdosta - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $3,504
Blakely - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $3,500
Glynn Co. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $2,617
Augusta - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $3,500
Tifton - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $3,733
Brunswick - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $2,630

Look at the sneaky way the information is reported in the story up above:

Complicating the problem is the Department of Transportation, which only covers 13.6 miles of public maintenance in Richmond County – the third lowest mileage total out of the 10 Georgia cities that receive a share of . . . state assistance.

Why do they say it is a problem that Augusta is seventh out of the top ten list? They should be grateful that Augusta is on the list at all. Just think of the rest of the cities in the state that apparently get zip, zero, nada from the state for mowing roadways.

Ingrates!

corgimom
34164
Points
corgimom 09/05/13 - 08:28 am
0
1
If prisoners wanted to work

If prisoners wanted to work hard, the vast majority of them wouldn't be prisoners. A whole bunch of them have never held a legitimate job in their life, if they did, they wouldn't be on a "staycation."

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 09/11/13 - 12:01 pm
0
0
good point corgi

good point corgi

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