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Council May Add More Staff to Beautify College Park

The City has been facing more demands for landscaping. The City Council has discussed the need for adding more landscaping staff to Public Works FY 2018 budget. Staff has provided the following explanation about the increasing work to beautify and maintain City facilities and public spaces.

Before August 1997, there were no dedicated landscape staff. The Tree & Landscape program was mainly funded for mature tree maintenance (performed by contractors), some trees were planted, but not the quantity or large size trees we are currently planting. Replacement trees were not watered regularly, like the schedule we now follow, and many trees died. Management at the time saw the need for dedicated landscape staff, so 2 positions were re-allocated to the tree & landscape maintenance program for FY 99 from the existing p/w staff. Landscape areas were a mess, weeds in some “plantings” were nearly 4’ tall. Trees were not getting watered and dying, and there were no annual floral rotations.

In FY 00 a p/w staff person was re-allocated and dedicated to the park & recreation program to maintain the newly installed play ground equipment, and performing mowing at the playgrounds to keep them maintained.

In 2002 the lead groundskeeper position was filled, less than 1/2 of his time was allocated to the tree & landscape program, and the other portion was allocated to the compost yard. This position is mainly working in the compost yard.

In FY 03 right-of-way mowing changed from in-house to contracted, to provide for regular scheduled mowing visits to improve turf appearance. At this time, the city was beginning the Yale Ave parking garage project & looking for ways to conserve funds. Contacted mowing saved about $45,000. Another FTE was re-allocated to the park & recreation program to mow at city facilities and Duvall athletic field.

About FY 09 an additional staff allocation was made by transferring an FTE from another p/w function to tree & landscape, bringing the total of landscape field staff to 3. In addition, there is the landscape foreman and a portion of Staff’s time allocated to the program. Over the years, the number of public works FTE’s has not increased; however staff have been re-allocated to different programs.

Additional landscape maintenance locations that have come on-line since 1997:
Bike trail in Berwyn – Lakeland 1999-2000
Old Parish House 2001
Bike trail in Calvert Hills (Calvert – Albion) about 2007
Ikea median 2008
Bike trail in Old Town (Rossburg – Calvert) about 2010

Other new planting areas: Blackfoot Circle, Calvert Road metro, Wakeforest Island, bay friendly planting at City Hall, 2 rain gardens at Duvall, Arbor Day plantings at Muskogee & Calvert Hills playgrounds, Guilford Dr & Mineola Ct, College Park sign bed at 193 & Greenbelt Rd.
Replacement tree plantings were contracted out until about 2006, and thereafter have been performed by in-house staff in both the spring & fall. Tree watering has been increased significantly to improve survivability.

The park & rec crew has also performed residential grass mowing to abate tall grass as requested by code. Abatements started about 2004 and the numbers significantly increased by 2010 up to nearly 40/season.

The landscape crew prunes about 600 street trees throughout the year to improve the clearance over the sidewalk and street. New tree rings have also been created around trees in the Edgewood Rd median and along the bike trail to prevent damage to the tree trunks from mowers and weedeaters, which require annual mulching and weeding.

Annual planting bed spring maintenance is performed, which includes weeding, removing leaves and debris from the winter and mulching. This activity was not performed prior to 1997.

Two annual floral rotations are completed at 22 sites with summer flowers and fall pansies and spring bulbs; over 4000 pots of flowers and 3000 bulbs are planted.

The crew responds to tree emergencies when needed, which reduces the need for costly contractors, but delays scheduled work.

The crew is also scheduled for snow removal operations and usually assigned to clear sidewalks & the bike trail, which has received an elevated priority over the years and now includes an additional segment between Lakeland & the College Park Metro station.

The Mayor & Council adopted a Vegetation Management Plan in 2008, which outlines the planned maintenance activities. The frequency of “inspections”, which results in scheduled maintenance is quite infrequent and was based on the staffing at the time the document was written. Staffing remains at the same level as when the document was written, and it is nearly impossible to meet the frequency identified.

The expectation for improved landscape maintenance has grown over the past 20 years, and rightfully so. During the economic downturn, no new staff were allocated, which is understandable. The economic picture is much brighter at this time, and it is time to increase landscape staffing to improve the level of maintenance of existing planting areas. Well maintained landscape areas throughout the City creates a positive impression to residents and visitors, and adequately staffing the landscape program will contribute to an enhanced appearance of plantings in neighborhoods, gateway entrances and business districts. The project at Duvall will be completed soon, which will require additional regular maintenance to keep it up. Since the proposed new landscape areas do not have finalized plans to estimate from, it is very difficult to estimate the number of man hours needed to maintain them.

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