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Costs down, quality up
Landscape maintenance thrives using city workers
Atherton Drive is among the landscaping maintained by city workers. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Manteca may soon create its first new front-line municipal job after three years of consolidating staff to reduce overall municipal manpower by more than 80 workers.

The position - if created - would be with the parks division for assignment to landscape maintenance districts (LMD) that have emerged asone of the city’s success stories as staff rethinks how it provides services to bring costs down to match revenue.

The city took over 28 individual LMDs on July 1, 2009. Previously the work on the 32 acres had been contracted to private sector firms. The city shifted the equivalent of four positions out of the parks division to whittle $271,500 from general fund expenses. The cost of the LMD upkeep is assessed to property owners within the impacted district.

Critics were concerned quality would go down and costs go up. Instead the opposite has happened.

•Water savings are up from 5 to 15 percent.

•The in-house maintenance costs are comparable with contracted costs.

•Extra work - such as landscape upgrades, irrigation renovation, and bark installation - is being done at a lower cost. In one instance the city received quotes for bark spreading on the Diamond Oaks LMD for $5,000 from two different contactors. The city was able to do the work for $2,500 including labor, materials, and transportation costs.

•Acreage has grown from the original 32 acres to 58 acres.

Later this year additional LMD acreage being accepted by the city will increase overall acreage to 76 acres prompting the possible need for a fifth worker.

Assistant City Manager Karen McLaughlin noted the city has been able to avoid rate increases as it has no need for profit and has been able to find ways to do the work more efficiently and effectively.