Thursday, July 7, 2011

General Services Department Gets Handle on Maintenance of Parks

Mr. Stuart Ed, Director of General Services, responds to a concern while Assistant Director, Joel McKnight takes notes for following up.

"We've gained a lot of efficiencies" was the message that City of El Paso General Services Director Stuart Ed brought to Representative Susie Byrd's monthly meeting this morning. For almost a year now, the General Services department has been tasked with maintaining all of the City of El Paso's parks and recreational facilities. Judging by the progress at Newman and many other parks, the decision to task General Services with maintenance rather than the Parks and Recreation Department has been successful and effective.

For example, Newman Park has seen better turf management, new memorial plaques and trash receptacles. Responsiveness and receptiveness to neighbors has been the keynote of General Services care of Newman Park.

To be sure there have been a number of challenges this past year for Mr. Ed and his Assistant, Joel McKnight and their staff. The prolonged late freeze in February and its effect on soil temperature meant the loss of turf at many parks. Because there is only one local sod farm in the El Paso region and they also experienced damaged and dead turf, there has been no available product for commercial use including replacing grass in many City parks. Additionally, the drought has made the situation more herculean.

Furthermore, the City of El Paso has been operating under severe budget restrictions for the last several years - restrictions which have set-back maintenance by the Parks and Recreation Department. Because of the limited budget, Parks and Recreation has been forced to spend resources on program rather than on maintenance. One example of the disadvantages of this budget shortage has been inadequate upkeep of irrigation at Grandview Park which has suffered from improperly-sized nozzles for one thing. Fortunately last year the City decided to do something about the upkeep of its parks and recreation facilities by moving maintenance to General Services so that more monetary resources could be directed toward upkeep and care.

Not only has the General Services budget begun to restore more optimal care of parks, this department already had in place a computer program to track work orders and manage and follow-up on problems in a more timely fashion. Moreover, their utilization of the outside, independent expertise of Texas Agrilife Extension Service under the direction of Dr. Ray Bader has really helped to key in on and solve plant problems.

Through good management, the Department has been able to come up with an additional $100,000 to hire 24 seasonal workers to clean-up litter and clear out dead foliage. Mr. Joel McKnight, Assistant Director, also added that 2 large aerifiers have been added to the inventory which now means that each of the 4 service areas has one. This additional equipment will help with ongoing turf management programs.

General Services has "gained a lot of efficiencies" which is great news for the City of El Paso and its parks and recreational facilities.

Green, green - how Newman Park looks under the care of the General Services Department of the City of El Paso

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