Campus expansion has affected mower specification in at least one major way.
“We’re going to try to purchase a 36-inch walk-behind this year with a floating deck to maintain a new landscape area that was installed last year,” he says. “This new area is a little too large for our smaller mowers and too small for our large mowers. Of course, we’ll also use this mower in other areas, as well, but we have a specific area that is driving the purchase. It’s always easier to maintain an area if you have the proper equipment.”
While Burns has final say on most equipment purchases, he depends on supervisors, crew leaders and equipment operators for recommendations.
“I rely heavily on the crews that use the equipment to seek out and specify equipment purchases,” he says. “Of course, I have input, but I like to rely on the folks that are closer to the daily equipment use.”
Any new mowers the department buys are likely to be propane-powered.
“It’s not because we like them so much better,” he says. “It’s because they use alternative fuel and are clean burning, and frankly, they’re good PR” and support the sustainability efforts set out by top university officials.
“If I turn in a request to purchase two gasoline-powered utility vehicles and two propane- or electric-powered utility vehicles, the electric vehicles will get approved, and the gas vehicles will get rejected,” he says.
The hot Texas weather also figures into the propane decision. This summer has brought more than 65 days with temperatures higher than 100 degrees, and a lengthy drought continues. The campus also has seen two or three high-ozone days this year, Burns says, adding this number is low, compared to previous years. Nonetheless, high-ozone days have created complications for mowing.
“Ozone days have caused some problems in recent years because we can’t operate equipment on these designated days,” he says, referring to gasoline-powered equipment. “This is one reason we purchased a propane mower, since we can operate it even on high-ozone designated days.”
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