Maintaining Efficiency

The foundation for any sector of an organization is the organization itself and how it’s organized. A disorganized organization could hardly be called an organization, but that’s sometimes the reality.

Translated to the real world and those who work in the field disorganization and miscommunication equates to confusion and waste. Fortunately, this is not the natural state of parks and recreation. However, there are ways to further improve even the most seemingly smooth grounds maintenance operation.

Rockville, Md., has found that a mix of in-house labor and outside contract help has been a real boon to the department and the community. Rockville’s superintendent of parks and facilities, Steve Mader, reports that the city has 40-50 different types of contracts, from the subtle (floor mats) to the more visible (mowing rights-of-way and tree maintenance).

“It allows us to respond to requests rather quickly,” says Mader. “We have a policy in place that if anything’s broken that would interfere with the use of a facility we repair it in 24 hours. Our in-house people tend to do most of the service requests or citizen response. Generally, the contractors do the bigger jobs that are planned out in advance. With tree maintenance, for example, we use the contractor to prune the entire neighborhoods, and our forestry crew responds to the 50 or so individual work requests we receive in an average month.”

With contractors responsible for the more scheduled, ongoing types of work, the in-house staff is free to turn on a dime, if need be. This program has the additional benefit of providing the department with options during budget crunch times.

“It’s often preferable to reduce the dollars for contract maintenance, versus reducing the city’s work force, so we have a buffer between the better years and the lean years,” explains Mader.

Rockville has recently created a long list of best practices detailing the situation and the solution. For maintenance, the list runs the full gamut, from the department’s Gypsy Moth Suppression Program to its stance on ADA. To view Rockville’s Best Practices form, go to www.parksandrecbusiness.com, and click on Forms.

Getting it on “paper” is a good step toward better management, as is getting rid of paper. It seems contradictory, but it really means turning physical paper into a digital format.

Rockville is working toward the implementation of grounds maintenance and management software to bring it all together.

“We have a lot of different data on Excel spread sheets and it’s not all tied together, so we recently did a complete inventory of our park land boundaries and picked up GIS information that the new software will link to,” says Mader.

“In the time between acquiring the software package and now we’re going through all these inventories, making sure they’re updated and the acreages and facilities are all correct so that all of it can be downloaded into the program. Right now we have a paper trail that doesn’t cross reference and our version will have both a work order and asset management component.”

Though there is management crossover between the city’s 60 parks, Mader reports that the department tries to tie managers with specific expertise into parks that fit their expertise.

“For example, we have a horticulturist who has several parks within the 60, but his parks tend to be those that contain extensive gardens, and are more heavily planted or manicured,” explains Mader.

“The parks with all the athletic and sports fields are assigned to a supervisor who has a strong background is sports field maintenance. We have a city forester who does all the tree maintenance, including the street tree program. The parks are assigned based on each person’s strengths; we’re reaping benefits from those strengths.”

Rockville has installed a management program from the University of Virginia called LEAD (Leading, Educating and Developing). The philosophy of the program is to create leadership and management on all organizational levels so that everyone has a voice in the system.

As part of the city’s overall effort to do this, the parks and facilities department has established committees, including a product selection committee and a training committee.

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