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Iowa City parents eye lower costs for school groundskeeping

BY LAUREN COFFEY | AUGUST 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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Community parents want to see greater opportunities arise from groundskeeping n the Iowa City School District, but they are concerned that the move might have a large price tag.

A meeting was held Monday night at the Educational Services Center to discuss the current lawn contract with Quality Lawn Care Co. and adjustments that could be made with next year’s contract.
 “We’re really committed to making this a transparent and open process,” said David Dude, the executive director of resources for the School District.

Quality Lawn Care has provided its services to the district for the past 25 years. When the contract came up for renewal in 2006, no other company bid for it. Quality Lawn Care has averaged a cost of $450,000 per year for the last three years.

Many community members are concerned with the costs.

“If you got into a car accident, the insurance company wouldn’t send you to just one company to get an estimate, it would send you to three,” community member Phil Hemingway said. “We’ll cut costs in the curriculum, but we won’t cut costs for the grounds.”

School Board member Sarah Swisher is less focused on the cost.

“I’d like to see us hire a firm that provides health care to its workers,” she said. “I’m less worried about the dollars and more about the workers.”

Dude plans to release the request for proposal in October.

Quality Lawn Care is willing to take into consideration the community members’ concerns.

“I took very thorough notes through the meeting,” company Vice President Geoff Wilming said. “It has been a long time, lots of the public have suggestions, which we love. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback [on our services], and most of it has been very positive.”

Many community members were present at the meeting, giving input ranging from not using chemicals on the grounds to having students help with the grounds care. One of the suggestions that will be taken into great consideration would be dividing the school grounds and having different local companies each get a section of the total land.

“Zoning the district … we’ve heard that one a lot,” Dude said. “We could look at natural gaps, or take each individual school and split it that way.”

The School District hopes to be able to keep suggestions about the lawn care and other aspects by creating a website on which parents and community members comment. The website, which would be called the Mind Mixer, has not been launched. There is also a possibility for future meetings regarding the lawn care, once the administrators go over the current suggestions.

Community members were also concerned with the educational services the lawn can provide for students.

Planting gardens and having students help with lawn care to not only learn but also save money were among the suggestions.

“A concern was what could we do to have students be a part of this,” Dude said. “A teacher came up to me after the meeting and said how her class grew milkweed for a butterfly garden. We just have to see how students can participate and make sure it’s realistic.”


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