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How green is your valley?
Think small, save big
Click here for the ADA corner
with Michelle S. Ohmes
Cover story: Administration & management
How green is your valley?
In November 2005, the International Society of Arboriculture's journal published "Effects of Street Tree Shade on Asphalt Concrete Pavement Performance."
Published by the U.S. Forest Service, the 90-page Midwest Community Tree Guide provides everything you need to know to make the most of your community's resources for green assets: a glossary of terms; how, when, and where to plant trees for minimal negative impact on sidewalks, roads, and curbs; and tables that list annual benefits and costs of species at five-year intervals for 40 years after planting.
The guide uses another Forest Service tool - the Stratum module from the free www.itreetools.org suite of software - to estimate costs related to existing assets.
Cover story: Administration & management
Reverse auctions were all the rage before the recession, but then - nothing. What happened?
Once the date and time have been set, the third-party facilitator conducts practice bids during a 30-minute online training session with potential bidders.
At the auction's designated time, bidders log on to the facilitator's Web site and begin bidding. They submit several quotes over a predetermined time period.
A bid decrement, the smallest amount by which a participant may lower a bid, is shared with participants. "We don't want 1 cent reductions," says Cindy Sisloff, vice president of operations for BidBridge, which uses one-quarter of 1% of the budgeted amount.
In some cases the client provides a bid ceiling based on the department's budget, but only if the buyer is trying to beat the state contract price.
"We try to bring as much competition to the table as possible within the buyer's parameters," Sisloff explains.
The clock resets itself for three additional minutes if a bidder lowers the price within the last three minutes. This continues until no new bids are submitted. Most auctions take less than an hour to complete.
Out of the Ordinary
Think small, save big
Harnessing employees' collective brainpower to reduce costs.
The following measures have been taken as result of the cost-cutting ideas generated by the staff of Genesee County Parks:
FUELMotor vehicles are not to be left running.
Minimize run time on equipment - warm up vehicles for less than 5 minutes.
Add one day to the routine mowing cycle, it will not affect overall turf health, appearance, or mowing results; over a season it will eliminate one or two mowing cycles, saving fuel and labor.
"Grow not mow" to enhance/preserve natural features, reduce erosion, increase buffers, stabilize shoreline, reduce staff time, increase fuel savings, and help with nuisance goose reduction.
Reduce mowings in low-traffic areas by half.
Use the diesel train engine for school day train runs, which saves staffing considerably (this is done occasionally).
Use the recommendation and formula from the Drain Commissioner to negotiate fuel prices in advance.
Other ideas not implemented at this time:Use battery-powered weed trimmers. Allow work from home options to save gas in county-assigned vehicles.
2008 Fuel Expenses: 208,393
2009 Fuel Expenses: 115,446
POSTAGEContinue to minimize the amount of postage being used.E-mail the majority of Park Pulse employee newsletters, instead of paying for postage.Promote designated advertising campaigns almost exclusively by electronic means.Through partnerships, many promotional pieces are distributed by the partner.
2008 Postage Expenses: 12,932
2009 Postage Expenses: 10,184
UNIFORMS Eliminate purchasing of uniform pants and let staff wear blue jeans as part of their uniform ? they are just as durable and fit better.Purchase county shirts for new employees only and minimize the number ordered for returning employees (Returning and year-round employees are given a choice to order or not order additional shirts. Several full-time and year-round employees choose to use what they already have.)
2008 Uniform Expenses: 27,995
2009 Uniform Expenses: 18,660
TELEPHONESSeveral cell phones are put "on vacation" to save the monthly charge when they are not being used by seasonal staff. All phone landlines are checked for viability and necessity. Those no longer in use have been disconnected.
Other ideas not implemented at this time: Eliminate cell phones at beaches in favor of radios only.
2008 Phone Expenses: 88,441
2009 Phone Expenses: 76,375
UTILITIESLight bulbs in lobby of administration building have been replaced with LED lights. Light motion detectors are being installed in offices, mail room, supply room, office restrooms, with more to follow.Computers/computer screens and typewriters are shut off every night.Thermostats are turned down at night. Insulation was installed at the maintenance warehouse building.Most lights at the Veteran's wall have been replaced with solar lights. Identify alternative watering sources for landscaping needs. Transition from annuals to perennials to conserve water and personnel.Freezers at Bluebell Beach are turned off for the winter. Heat is turned down in the winter/Air conditioning temperature is turned up in summer before employees leave for the day. Timer/programmable thermostats are being considered. Installed motion detector lights in public restrooms.Reduce heat in the out-county maintenance buildings. Where motion detectors are not available, office lights are turned off whenever possible, and always when an employee leaves a room.Light bulbs in lobby of administration building have been replaced with LED lights.Light motion detectors are being installed in offices, mail room, supply room, office restrooms, with more to follow.Computers/computer screens and typewriters are shut off every night. Thermostats are turned down at night. Insulation was installed at the maintenance warehouse building.Most lights at the Veteran's wall have been replaced with solar lights.Identify alternative watering sources for landscaping needs. Transition from annuals to perennials to conserve water and personnel. Freezers at Bluebell Beach are turned off for the winter. Heat is turned down in the winter/Air conditioning temperature is turned up in summer before employees leave for the day. Timer/programmable thermostats are being considered. Installed motion detector lights in public restrooms. Reduce heat in the out-county maintenance buildings.Where motion detectors are not available, office lights are turned off whenever possible, and always when an employee leaves a room.
Other ideas not implemented at this time:Insulate For-Mar better, cracks under doors, reseal windows. Plant a new tree of lights to replace old ones and the artificial tree.Better insulation at the Railroad Shop (an energy review was recently conducted).Offer work from home options to save electricity costs in the office.
2008 Utility Expenses: 321,855
2009 Utility Expenses: 307,742
OFFICE SUPPLIESWater filters have been installed on the kitchen faucet at the administration building and the delivery of bottled water has been discontinued.Kitchen amenities - coffee, paper, and plasticware - are no longer provided. E-mail Park Pulse employer newsletter to save paper, ink, time. Reuse paper from printers as scratch pads: Print on back sides for miscellaneous printing that stays in-house such as e-mails, copies of letters to employees for internal files, etc. Comparison shop for larger office supply items. Print only the flyers/brochures that are needed on a daily basis. Changed the default on the color copy machine to black and white (directly from the network) to eliminate the chance of accidently printing in color. Reduced the number of cookies (by half) provided at the commission meetings. Purchase recycled and supply company off-brands of ink cartridges for printers/faxes. Create a once-used, twice-used paper box so staff can easily grab paper to be reused. Use rechargeable batteries in various small office items, such as tape recorders, calculators."Office supply round ups" conducted where staff members clean out their desks/offices of items they don't need or use. Identify ways to reduce paperwork at hiring time, and incorporate electronic methods
(we are currently using "once-used" paper to make copies, we continue to encourage people to download the application from our Web site, and we print applications as needed rather than stockpiling copies)Use e-mail for customer receipts in the reservation department and other office correspondence when an e-mail is provided. Search and attain ink pens from supplies, vacation spots, etc.More proofreading of final copies to eliminate mistakes that would require reprinting. Use the print button on calculators less often to save printing rolls.Trophies for events - changed mugs to medals, which are less expensive (Huckleberry Hustle winners were given medals this year). Build programs around the supplies that we already have in stock.
Other ideas not implemented at this time:Review program reservations when necessary and fine-tune the supplies to the program needs.Reduce paperwork for contractual agreements; handle electronically. Supervisors pick up all employee paychecks and distribute at worksites to save postage. Scan receipts and save them electronically OR use the once-used paper to make copies. Reduce the amount of computers; do not replace if they are not needed. Reduce or eliminate contractual cleaning staff. Reduce the number of copies for maintenance for programs/weddings/pavilion rentals, etc. Consider changing the volunteer plaques; the first time they receive a plaque, but in subsequent years just add a brass plate with the year. E-mail activity sheets to the schools so they can print them off for the exact number of students attending school days.
2008 Office Expenses: 60,095
2009 Office Expenses: 23,472
MISCELLANEOUSReduce our dependency on outside contractors (i.e. electrical, plumbing, heating, construction).Reduce the number of stand-up meetings to one per week during the summer and eliminate them during Halloween and Christmas. Create community gardens.Ensure the right number of staff for the job (don't have one just riding around).Designate responsibilities so there is always something to work on to eliminate staff "down time."Place and service our own portable toilets at Linden County Park instead of rentals.Pump out our own vaults and septic tanks instead of contracting.Reduce the number of calcium chloride applications.Use the wood we cut in the parks for repairs (wood was used in the sawmill at Crossroads). Use sand instead of salt (in some areas, on some occasions, where it was safe to do so). Reduce the shift times down at the beaches. We are also more diligent at sending home staff on inclement weather days.
Other ideas not implemented at this time:Honor boxes from mid-July to September for boat launches.In-house repair of roof at the 4H barn (insurance company paid for repairs to damage). Make a skating rink and charge admission. Use students for entertainers in the Opera House (seek talent needing classroom credits at local colleges). Partner with schools for detention students to work in village picking up trash, which would free up our staff for other duties.
REVENUE-GENERATING IDEASDead ash trees are being cut to sell as firewood at Wolverine Campground.Sell seized items from the rangers division on Ebay or other means to general revenue.Giant Garage Sale at the Village (this was actually billed as an antique weekend and antique vendors rented tables and we sold some Village antiques).
Other ideas not implemented at this time:Build a wishing well at the Village for coin tossing.Check Target for returned items for Village garage sale, they do not resell those items. Revisit the necessity for park attendant positions (see miscellaneous cost-cutting above).Apples in the Village orchard to be used in cider press. Sell items like snacks and beverages and bait at events like fishing derbies, etc.Place boxes or containers in parks to recycle pop cans; turn in the money for parks revenue. Create a grant-writing committee to seek funding sources.Charge a fee at the splash pad.Charge a fee for parking at the beaches. Build lumber storage sheds to keep wood dry. Too much of the wood we purchase for the mill is wasted because it gets wet and is unusable.
Summary of savings:
Fuel: $ 92,947
Office Supplies: 36,623
Postage : 2,748
Total: $ 167,832
Genesee County Parks pays an average of $10/hour for a seasonal employee's wages.
The above savings amounts to 16,783 hours available for seasonal employees, which is 419 weeks of employment. Summer employees could put in approximately 16 weeks of employment, so this saves 26 seasonal jobs.