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LEMOORE — The city of Lemoore could possibly hire five new employees if the city decides to bring the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District back in-house after eight years.

Public Works Director Nathan Olson spoke to the city council Tuesday about the 12 landscape and lighting maintenance zones within the city, which were developed in 1993 and continued to be incorporated as subdivisions were built in the city.

Olson said currently eight out of the 12 districts are underfunded, while four out of the 12 districts have a surplus of funds. The cost to provide landscape and lighting maintenance services has increased while revenue sources have remained flat, resulting in a downward trend being seen in many zones.

Since 2009, landscape contractors have been used to perform the maintenance of the zones. The landscape contractors were responsible for maintenance of grass areas, planter beds and pruning of trees and shrubs. The contractors had been performing the work as outlined under their contract, however, it was determined that the scope of work in each zone generally exceeded the annual revenues collected.

Olson said the department will be going to council soon with a new budget for consideration to bring the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District back in-house because getting away from contractors would improve the level of service, keep tighter controls on the work done and reduce the overall cost of maintenance.

For now, Olson said the department has begun to do community outreach by talking to residents and asking them what they would like to see be done with the money they are spending for landscape and lighting maintenance.

Olson said his department would like to prepare a work plan for overfunded zones in cooperation with the property owners that will outline how the city plans to spend down the surplus funds. Options the city could consider include providing additional services within each zone, using additional lighting or drought tolerant landscaping, or identifying other special projects related to lighting or landscaping within the zones.

Olson said in addition to more efficient project management, increased assessments will also be needed in the future to monitor the work that is done. He said it’s the department’s goal to implement more efficient tracking and project management methods in order to more accurately reflect the needs of each zone.

“This has been, quite frankly, an issue that’s been known about and now we’re getting to a point where we can put a focused effort behind it, a plan behind it, and turn this thing around,” Olson said.

If it is determined the city would like to hire maintenance personnel — as opposed to sticking with landscape contractors — Olson said the recruitment process would start in July and hopefully hire new employees within three months. The city would hire one full-time coordinator and four full-time maintenance positions.

Councilmembers Holly Blair and Jeff Chedester were both very supportive of the plan, saying they like the fact that residents would get to have more input into what services would be done in each zone.

“I think it would be good to bring this in-house,” Councilmember Dave Brown said. “I think it’s a benefit to our city in more than one way.”

A resolution for the plan will be brought to the council at a later date to be either approved or denied.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

News Reporter

News reporter for The Sentinel

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