By Kim Siebert MacPhail
After considering a report about what one additional DPW Grounds crew staff member would be able to accomplish in a year, and then reviewing expenses and anticipated revenues—including new growth in Bedford, as well as the likelihood of increased state aid for cities and town—the Finance Committee (FinCom) voted last Thursday night to approve an additional $42,616 for the Selectmen’s budget that will allow for the hiring of that additional person.
An estimate of how 1,840 staff hours of a full-time staff’s 2,000 hours would be used—and how this would address a work backlog in underserved areas—was described in the following way:
250 hours at the town’s cemeteries: Additional hours would provide time for more routine maintenance, including mowing and trimming, especially during the rapid-growing period leading up to Memorial Day. A memo prepared by DPW Director Rich Warrington and presented to FinCom by Town Manager Rick Reed said that the spring months are currently difficult because cemetery work and athletic field work overdraw on the number of staff hours available, given the present number of staff.
800 hours at athletic fields: Seeding is needed in “numerous high-wear areas” on Bedford’s athletic fields, particularly on varsity-level fields (aka the “large rectangular playing fields” that were the focus of the Outdoor Recreation Area Study Committee’s analysis). Slice seeding [dropping seed into furrows, rather than spreading it over the surface] is a labor-intensive method that will be used to augment the current practice of over-seeding in the DPW’s turf management program. Additional staff will make slice-seeding possible and increase the department’s ability to do deep-tine aeration several times a year instead of just one. Trimming around backstops, dugouts, goals and fence lines would also be done more regularly.
40 hours of tree work: These hours will allow for additional tree planting in areas like the Jenks Nature Trail and other parks and landscaped areas throughout town.
100 hours for parklands: The additional time “would allow for a significant increase in landscaping care in the Town Campus area, including beautification around our Town buildings.” The idea is improving existing landscaped beds as well as creating additional areas in locations that are currently unattractive or under-utilized.
20 hours of seasonal work: This is a low estimate of how many hours it would take to address leaf pick-up in the fall at the two elementary schools. Currently, leaf pick-up and mulching of the garden beds at the schools are done in spring or not done at all.
40 hours at the schools: Warrington says that all four schools have newly landscaped grounds following their renovation/reconstruction projects. These areas have never been properly maintained due to other priorities for work time available at the current staffing level.
40 hours at Springs Brook Park: A recently completed study shows that additional work is needed during the off-season to help improve water quality and reduce soil erosion at the park.
100 hours for playgrounds: There are six tot-lots in town and these would be more routinely visited, inspected and maintained, thus improving the safety and pleasure of the children and families who use them.
250 hours for snow and ice removal: Bedford’s roads have increased in both number and road surface, as in the case of Middlesex Turnpike and Crosby Drive, both of which have been widened in the last few years and require more preparation, plowing, salting and sanding trips. Grounds crew staff assist with road crew work during the winter months. Sidewalks are increasing in number and length in town, as well, requiring more time to plow and clear them after storms.
200+ hours for “other” work: Miscellaneous work includes tennis and basketball court maintenance, support for Garden Club traffic islands and other garden beds throughout town, bike path maintenance, assistance for civic groups and volunteer projects like Eagle Scouts clean-up days, “green” committees, Earth Day, plant sales, concerts on the common, annual tree lighting, flag lowering, trash collection, larvaciding for mosquito control. These Grounds Crew duties, Warrington pointed out in the memo, are not well-known but “very much define the ‘character’ of Bedford that make[s] residents proud.”
Before voting to approve the additional funds, FinCom member Ben Thomas said that the question of subcontracting work to outside companies still needed to be researched and “would not go away” until the data and the pros and cons have been analyzed.
“There was a lot of discussion [at earlier meetings] about whether or not we could slice out a particular function and contract it out,” Thomas said. “My suggestion is that we should continue to consider the possibility of other functions that are rather mundane that the Town could contract out for better cost efficiency.”
“We do contract out some of the services,” said Town Manager Reed.
“Rick and I have talked about it several times [in the last week],” said Selectman Cordes, who was also present at the meeting. “We’ll be prepared to speak to that more—we have some data, but in this particular case you’re talking about a range of services, so we have to slice one thing out to contract.”
“I came prepared for a good justification of adding just one person and you’ve done that,” said FinCom member Barbara Perry.