Helotes Public works ends contract; buys new mower

The City of Helotes Public Works Department ended the contract for outside landscape care last November. “The City was paying $10,000 a month for landscaping, mowing, and watering of the city property,” said Josh Mair, Public Works Director. “We decided to take over caring for the City property in house. We used a zero turn John Deere mower that is at least 10 years old. We believed we could save the city money.”

The City of Helotes added two new public works employees to help Mair cover the repairs and maintenance needed by the City of Helotes. The two individuals have been responsible for mowing the right-of-ways, clearing and mowing culverts, trimming trees, and keeping the City disc golf park in operable conditions for the public.

“My guys were having to spend two and three days on certain locations to mow the grass, and trim the right-of-ways inside the City of Helotes. We continued to do this for months so that we could build up savings inside our department to invest in a new piece of equipment.

We were also experiencing a safety issue in some places inside the City limits. Along Galm and Braun Roads there are steep inclines that when you use the zero turn mower, one or more wheels would lose traction causing the mower and rider to slide down the incline. My guys refused to mow with the mower any more and had to use a push mower or weed eater to complete the task. This was increasing the number of man hours needed to complete the job (up to 3 days in certain areas.) I believed this was unacceptable and wanted to find a solution.”

Mair’s solution was to hold onto the savings from the cancelled contract until he had enough o purchase a versatile mower for the City. Mair purchased a Ventrac mower. The Ventrac is designed to mow steep inclines. It comes equipped with a digital slope reading device that warns the operator about the incline and if conditions become unsafe for operation.

Along with the tractor, Mair purchased three attachments that allow the City to mow open fields, brushy culverts, and to clean the streets of debris and other substances.

The combine cost of the tractor and attachments is $35,383.77.   If the City of Helotes had attempted to buy all three machines at a separate cost the price would have been higher. For instance a Cub Cadet commercial brush mower starts at a price of $11, 199.99. A new Cub Cadet zero turn mower has a starting price of $12,999.39.

“We are still able to use our old zero turn mower, and with the new mower, now the employees are able to mow the park in less than a day,” added Mair. “The addition to the new mower not only improved safety for our guys, but it allows them to finish projects in almost half the time it was taking.”

(Editor’s note- it was refreshing to have a city employee return a phone call. Answer questions honestly and candidly. If others in charge of the budget applied the same approach as Mr. Mair then maybe our reserves would actually grow, unnecessary spending and fiscal responsibility would return to City Hall. Thank you Mr. Mair and may others in the City Administration take notice of your example)

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