County mowing crews could be a thing of the past as commissioners consider spraying grass and foliage to control roadside growth.
Frank Kelley, a representative from Roadside Inc., which specializes in clearing right-of-ways of unwanted weeds and grasses via selective poison, made a presentation to the court Tuesday regarding the merits of controlling roadside grass and limbs with poison rather than mower blades.
Kelley said the sprays kill undesirable grasses and weeds, such as Johnson grass and goat weed, and leaves desirable grasses, such as Bermuda and coastal.
“Spraying stunts the growth and gets rid of undesirable species and leaves a nice green right-of-way,” he told the court.
The county maintains right-of-ways along more than 1,150 miles of county roads for safety and drainage reasons, Road and Bridge Administrator Doug Nicholson said.
Nicholson said around 10 employees run three batwing mowers, four smaller mowers and three boom-axes, which cut tree limbs and other growth difficult to reach. The cost, maintenance of the equipment and labor are the major considerations the court want to determine and weigh before making a decision, he said.
County Judge Joel Baker said a spray program could be a long-term money saver that would free Road and Bridge employees for road maintenance.
“I just wanted commissioners to consider this because it could be a better long-term solution to maintain right-of-ways,” he said. “I’ve talked to several other counties, and they have been happy with their spray programs.”
Kelley’s company spray-tested along 100 miles of Smith County roads and showed the results Tuesday. The process takes three applications throughout the year, which would cost around $98,000 each, by Nicholson’s calculation, roughly $85 per mile. Spraying saplings and limbs reaching into right-of-ways will cost around $300 per mile, Kelley said, but only require applications every two to three years.
The poisons used are all approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, Kelley said.
Nicholson said he budgets around $200,000 to mow and clear county right-of-ways multiple times each year. Boom-axes cost around $15,000 each, where tractors to pull batwing mowers cost around $120,000, he said.
The county is also considering contracting mower crews. Nicholson said some “spot” mowing would still be required to keep vegetation cut to manageable levels if the spray program is chosen.
“Any way you cut it, it costs a lot of money to maintain right-of-way,” Nicholson said. “Commissioners are just looking at their options.”