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Port Huron to spend $369,842 over three years to mow city-owned lawns

Photo courtesy of Jim Bloch. Lincoln Park is one of many parks and city-owned lots in Port Huron to be mowed and maintained over the next three years at a cost of $370,000.

By Jim Bloch

The expansive lawns that stretch across our private and public spaces are ecologically harmful and expensive to maintain.

Environmentalists have long noted the downsides of the lawning of America.

“Every year across the country, lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water, 200 million gallons of gas (for all that mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council in a 2016 article. 

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The shallow root systems of turf lawns — unlike deep-rooted native plants — encourage the runoff of pesticides and fertilizers into streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans during big rain events, poisoning fish, endangering swimmers, and encouraging algal blooms.

Lawn care is also expensive.

How expensive became clear locally at the regular meeting of the Port Huron City Council on April 11, when the council voted to spend $369,842 over the next three years to maintain city-owned lawns.

The council unanimously voted to award Clean Cut Maintenance, of Port Huron, a contract valued at $181,500 to maintain the lawns at Parkway, Keifer Park, Lincoln Park, McMorran Islands, Heritage Park, the River Street Marina, and six baseball fields. Clean Cut underbid Major League Landscape and Lawn Care of Clyde Township.

In a separate vote, the council awarded Major League Landscape a $156,002 contract over three years to mow and trim 150 city-owned properties, rights-of-way, and facilities, totaling about 70 acres. Major League underbid Clean Cut for the work.

In a third vote, the council unanimously voted to award Major League a three-year $32,340 contract to mow and trim the lawns at additional city facilities, including the wastewater treatment plant and eight sanitary pump stations. Again, Major League underbid Clean Cut.

The total of the three contracts was nearly $370,000.

“It’s different types of equipment for different types of mowing,” said City Manager James Freed, as heard on the recording of the meeting posted on the city’s website. “These are highly competitive bids. I’m grateful for them. I don’t know how they can do it for this price. But they do a good job and our parks are beautiful and the parks are mowed well. Clean Cut has done an excellent job for the city and Major League has also done an excellent job for the community.”

“How does this compare to what we spent last year?” asked Mayor Pauline Repp.

“I believe it’s close,” said Freed. “I want to say it’s within 10 percent but I can confirm that.”

Since Major League was the low bidder on two of the jobs, Councilmember Anita Ashford wondered if the city could extract a discount from the company.

Freed said no. “To be candid, we’re lucky we got two bids. I do worry about labor shortages in the future. It’s tremendously difficult to get workers right now. They’ve also conveyed that.”

The city itself is hiring summer help at $15 per hour, Freed said.

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com. 

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