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By Dan Hounsell, Editor
Grounds Management Article Use Policy
Patrick Pizzo at first was leery about the move by the East Meadow School District from chemical-based turf care to an organic option.
"I was as skeptical as anyone else," says Pizzo, the district's administrator for operations who oversees grounds operations. But his skepticism proved unfounded.
"With our program, we were able to save 24 percent in the cost of turf treatment," he says. "We only use organic treatments for our fields. Our choice of an organic solution is beneficial from the perspective of student health, results and cost."
But while the district works to address additional challenges involving equipment, staffing and funding, the turf care program's results demonstrate that long-term commitment to a sustainable strategy can deliver benefits that go beyond the immediate target.
The district in Westbury, N.Y., has many of the usualchallenges when it comes to maintaining turf. For example, its eight-person grounds crew have to rely on aging mowers to care for 130 acres surrounding nine schools and an administration building, which includes football, baseball, and soccer fields.
The equipment includes a large-area mower, a zero-radius mower, two 72-inch front-deck mowers, and two push mowers, Pizzo says, adding, "In two of our schools that have courtyards and small grass areas, we have mower attachments for the snow plows used by the custodial staff. We also have a groomer that we use for baseball and softball infields, which we hitch to one of our tractors." The district also uses several vehicles for transporting equipment and supplies, including two pickup trucks, a rack truck, a dump truck, and two battery-operated golf carts.
Perhaps the biggest equipment challenge is keeping the aging fleet operational until the district can afford replacements.
"Budgets in New York are under a 2 percent cap, so there's not really a lot going on regarding purchasing of new equipment," Pizzo says. Sustainability considerations will be key when the time comes to purchase new mowing equipment.
"Any kind of larger equipment, we wouldn't make the same choices today because there's a lot of knowledge out there now that wasn't as well-circulated in the past," he says.
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Products: Grounds Management