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Gainesville mows through ideas to cut grass
Public works requests replacement of expensive slope mower
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Grass problems are leaving a few Gainesville officials with questions.

The public works department needs a new slope mower, but employees also are considering the new chemical growth regulator approved by Hall County commissioners this month.

Public Works Director David Dockery approached City Council members Thursday about buying a new slope cutter. The last piece of equipment, which caught fire during a recent assignment, was 18 years old but not scheduled for replacement in this year’s budget.

“It’s a specialized mower that moves on very steep banks, up to a 40 degree incline,” Dockery said. “We use it out at the airport, to maintain dams on detention ponds and some right-of-ways. It’s a highly specialized piece of equipment and can be pretty expensive.”

Dockery presented a proposal to use general fund contingency dollars to buy a refurbished slope mower for $34,600, rather than the new unit price of $55,000. Though the public works budget scheduled a right-of-way tractor for this fiscal year, stipulations on the account won’t allow funds to go toward used equipment, Dockery explained.

“We thought this equipment was more important but learned that we couldn’t purchase it in lieu of the tractor,” he said.

“This will have to come from contingency funds, and I’m here to ask for that consideration.”

Council members agreed to let the resolution move forward, and council member Danny Dunagan asked Dockery to keep other options in mind, such as the new spray chemicals that county employees will use to stunt grass growth.

“They say it’s environmental,” he said. “We should check into that.”

Chris Rotalsky, assistant director for public works, began investigating the possibility this week, but ideas are still very preliminary.

“We’re in the phase of taking a look at what the county has done and if we could apply it to our uses, potentially at the airport,” he said. “It’s extremely preliminary as we look at the products and decide what we like and don’t like about it.

Then it’ll depend on what the council would like us to do with the information we find.”

Then there’s also the problem with geese at the Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport. Experts say the best way to deter geese is to grow taller grass, noted City Manager Kip Padgett.

“We’re looking at a double-edged sword at the airport,” he said. “If we solve one problem, it could create another problem.

With the reports of geese, we’re tempted to let the grass grow higher because they avoid tall grass.”

Dunagan talked to a few airport users who see the geese, and he hopes city staff can find a solution for both the geese and grass problems.

“The geese love the golf course and manicured lawns, I know that,” he said. “A couple told me when they were taking off at the airport, a bunch of geese went under the plane, and a bunch went over but none went in. That could have been bad.”