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September 30th, 2007 12:00 am by Matthew Lane

KINGSPORT — High grass has caught the attention of city leaders again, and public works officials are working on ideas to increase the mowing frequency along the gateways to the Model City.

Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds said the idea is to determine whether it is cost effective to increase the frequency of mowing along Kingsport’s gateways. Kingsport work crews mow along the gateways of the city every four to six weeks.

“The question has come up in the community, is that an acceptable level of service given we’re trying to enhance the city,” said McReynolds. “There is much momentum in the city to attract new people to Kingsport, and does the service level correspond with the intention of those moving Kingsport forward, as we present ourselves to visitors.”

The gateways to the city are classified as Stone Drive, John B. Dennis Highway, Netherland Inn Road, Memorial Drive, the Interstate 26 intersections, and the intersection of Interstate 81 and Fort Henry Drive.

Total acreage mowed along these roads is approximately 298.5 acres.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has asked city staff to determine what it would take internally to move to a biweekly mowing cycle on the gateways. During a recent BMA work session, McReynolds presented three options:

•Mowing all 298.5 acres every two weeks would cost the city an additional $175,000 a year and add five full-time employees to the city’s payroll.

•Mowing the high-impact zones of the gateways (about 61 acres) every two weeks and the remaining gateway roads every four to six weeks. The cost would be an additional $40,000 a year and add one full-time and one seasonal employee to the payroll.

•Mowing all 298.5 acres every three weeks would cost an additional $110,000 a year and add two full-time employees to the city.

McReynolds also included estimated figures if the city were to contract with a professional lawn care service. On the three proposals, those yearly costs would be $285,000, $60,000 and $215,000 respectively.

However, McReynolds admits these are rough estimates and city staff are preparing bid specifications to be sent out to several lawn care professionals for more accurate estimates.

The BMA is not expected to act on any of the proposals until the city receives the bids.

The Kingsport Public Works Department has 11 ground maintenance crews who mow roughly 500 acres of property in the city in a variety of locations — parks, rights of way, around buildings and spot mowing.

McReynolds said mowing around buildings has a five- to seven-day turnaround, spot mowing has a seven- to 10-day turnaround, right of way mowing is on a 30- to 45-day cycle, while lot and field mowing has a 60-day turnaround.

The Grounds Maintenance Division, which is responsible for mowing, litter and leaf collection, has a yearly budget of roughly $1 million.

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