Grounds Department Employs Zone-Maintenance Approach
Payne manages about 60 people and is responsible for 10 operational budgets totaling $2.8 million. He also manages up to 12 capital-improvement-program budgets dedicated to specific projects, such as enhanced storm-water management and downtown street improvements.
In addition to the existing acreage and streets Payne and his staff maintain, the city also frequently purchases property, creating more work for an already thin staff.
"A lot of the types of vegetation management we have done for a long period of time," Payne says. "I think probably the most challenging thing that we've had is the addition of property that we maintain. Another part of that is what I call infill development where you may have gone into a downtown street that didn't have any trees or any landscaping or irrigation, and we turn around and make an improvement through a streetscape in that area."
Switching to a zone-maintenance approach has allowed Payne to account for the addition of property and expanding responsibilities. The department has had two team leaders, but now, Payne will reclassify two of the frozen positions into additional team-leader positions that in-house staff will assume. The four team leaders will be responsible for the city's four zones. Also, Payne will turn field-personnel positions into supervisory positions.
"The reason for that is, we will be going more to contracted services," he says. "We've at least had preliminary discussions about reallocating budgets to be geared specifically for those contracted services. A key part of that reorganization is, those team leaders are going to supervise their own personnel, but they're also going to be administering contracted services."
Contracted services have allowed Payne to more easily manage the city's property acquisitions.
"It's a lot easier to deal with," he says. "Instead of having to take 20 properties added to us in a single year, we just simply put that into a change order and add that to the contractor. As you can imagine, if I have a set number of people to maintain and they add 20 properties to me, all that really happens is we just get around that much slower, whereas a private contractor can deal with that. They can add staff for the added money they're going to get for those additional properties."