The Webster Parish Police Jury, in December, will discuss in further detail whether to continue contracting out its seasonal mowing.
“What I want is for the jurors to make an educated decision at the time that the mowing contract (comes due),” juror Daniel Thomas said. “I think we agreed that we’re going to bid it out again this year. If we wait until that day to make a decision on whether we can afford to do it or not afford to do, it’s too late, normally.”
He passed around a handout with figures showing what it would cost for the police jury to take care of the mowing, totaling roughly $360,000. This figure includes the cost of new tractors with side cutters, related equipment, fuel costs and temporary employees to mow for the 17-week mowing season.
One of the issues Thomas says they are having is during the wetter months, it’s difficult to get the tractors down into the ditches. With the contractor, the police jury has to pay a contracted rate per mile whether they mow a third of the ditch or the whole thing. He says if the police jury takes over mowing again, they could get the entire ditch, including the backside.
“Right now, if he does that, the way we’re paying him per mile, we have to pay him,” Thomas said. “If he only mows a third of the ditch, we have to pay him per mile. We’re actually paying him to not want to get in the ditch. He gets the same money whether he makes three passes in that ditch or whether he just rides down the road with the bat wing in the ditch.”
Thomas suggested putting in this coming year’s bid an evaluation where the contractor would be paid by the mile, but also by how much was mowed per mile. Jury president Jim Bonsall says it would be difficult to do that, if anything, making the price per mile increase.
“I think it would make the price go up if we try to do that,” Bonsall said.
Bonsall says if the price is close, he’d rather contract it out.
“I know that we have to do what we have to do, whether we have to do it or we contract it out,” he said. “My opinion is if the price is close, I’d rather contract it out and not have to worry about it.”
Jurors brought up several factors on both sides, some bringing up liability issues such as if an employee wrecks the tractor
or tears it up, repairs, finding good temporary employees and others.
Parish attorney Patrick Jackson also reminded jurors the cost of employing temporary workers.
“Under the Affordable Care Act, if these employees are going to be full time, they have to be under insurance,” he said. “If they work a full 40-hour week for seven months, they are full time under the Affordable Care Act. So that $8-$10 an hour employee is going to cost you $20 an hour.”
Bonsall suggested taking in the bids, looking at them and discuss the pros and cons of each.
The police jury has been outsourcing its mowing for the last eight years.