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LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE DISTRICTS

City manager explains precautions, why it will work

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POSTED June 19, 2009 1:45 a.m.

There still appears to be some confusion about the facts concerning the City assuming responsibility for the Landscape Maintenance Districts (LMD). The intent of this blog is to provide clarity to some of the points made in the opinion column in Thursday’s Manteca Bulletin.

It is possible that the four contractors that are currently maintaining the City’s 24 LMDs, may deploy a dozen workers in any given week to maintain the landscaping. However, keep in mind that they are typically only on site one time each week. Beginning July 1, the City will assign three full-time maintenance workers, plus a half-time lead worker and a half-time irrigation technician to maintain the LMDs. The number of actual personnel maintaining the LMDs appears to be in favor of the contractor. However, the major difference is that the contractor is only on site once a week, where City staff works 5 days a week, and can respond to issues much faster than a contractor who is working in another city.

The move to maintain the LMDs with current maintenance personnel will, in fact, preserve jobs. But, this was not the only reason. City staff evaluated each of the LMDs and determined that staff could maintain current service levels, and that the City’s costs were within 5 percent of current contract rates. That doesn’t necessarily mean that LMD property owners should expect a 5 percent increase in their assessment. In fact, the assessment will not increase at all for several of the LMDs.

A big advantage, and often overlooked advantage, with the City assuming responsibility for the LMDs, is the potential for savings in water. Because a contractor typically only visits the site once a week, they have a tendency to over-water. With City staff managing the water, we anticipate being able to conserve water by as much as 10-15 percent of current use. It is true that all of the LMDs combined have a budget of approximately $1 million.  Of the $1 million, $285,000 is for water use alone. Any savings on water costs would be passed on to LMD residents, in the form of a lower assessment. If you consider the potential savings in water costs, and the fact the City’s estimates to perform the maintenance are within 5 percent of current contracted rates, staff feels we can provide the best value to the taxpayer for the dollar.

The question regarding accountability and where maintenance personnel’s salaries are being charged is a good question. The response to that is that each employee maintains a daily record of where they work and how much time they spent at each location. So if an employee does need to work overtime in a General Fund-maintained park, that time would be charged to the General Fund, not the LMD. LMD funds can only be used in the LMD where they were collected.

The issue regarding landscaping along Atherton Drive east of Union Road centered around a private contractor who installed the landscaping as part of the Atherton Drive extension project.  The City does not accept public improvements like this landscaping until it has been installed to City standards – clearly not the case to date with this landscaping.  This area is still considered an active construction site, and not yet at the point where routine maintenance overseen by the City would begin.

Maintenance of the Tidewater bike path has improved significantly over the years – due primarily to an upgrade of the irrigation system.  The previous condition of the Tidewater was the result of an older, inefficient irrigation system – not the maintenance by City personnel.

Oversight of the LMDs will be no different than the oversight of the City’s parks and other publicly maintained areas. Manteca has a very good reputation for maintaining its park system. There is a lot more to it than simply mowing the turf.  The majority of park maintenance personnel maintain multiple certifications pertinent to maintaining landscaping, parks and water features – likely at levels beyond what are possessed by the private contractors. Manteca’s workers are experienced maintenance personnel, many of whom call Manteca home. With that comes ownership and pride in what they do.

Finally, City staff is committed to continuing its evaluation of managed competition, and will work with the City Council-appointed Budget Advisory Committee in this endeavor.  Staff and the Council will establish clear goals for all of the services the City provides, including landscape maintenance, to provide a better understanding of how our customers get the best value for their dollar.

To access City Manager Steve Pinkerton’s blog go to www.ci.manteca.ca.us/blog/

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