DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The state is spending roughly $1 million in search of a less costly and easier way to cut the grass and manage the trees and shrubs along Ohio's interstates and highways.
The Dayton Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/1pjIDFV ) that the effort began last year with the state putting up $177,000 for the first phase of a consulting contract with the Kent-based Davey Resource Group. The company's recommended changes included spraying chemicals in certain areas to limit the growth of grass and weeds.
But the project's second phase is pricier. The latest contract with the company will cost taxpayers $1,002,048, the newspaper reports.
A state transportation official says Ohio is trying to be more efficient with vegetation management, while ensuring that animals are kept off the highway.
"We have wildlife that tends to make its home in high grass," said Scott Kasler, an administrator with Ohio Department of Transportation District 7.
The consultant is expected to present alternatives to mowing the grass at the state's usual rate of four times a year, along with ideas to manage heavy bushes, shrubs and trees along highways. The project is slated to take three years before final recommendations are made to the state's transportation department.
The effort comes after a recommendation from the state auditor, who said the transportation agency could save an estimated $4.4 million a year by reducing mowing.
With four complete cuts annually, Ohio mows more often than other states in the region, according to the newspaper. Indiana and Kentucky mow three times each year and Illinois cuts twice.
Kasler said much of the cost for the project's second phase is for equipment and chemicals recommended by the consultant. Less grass cutting also will be examined.
One county engineer said he believed the consulting contract was a waste.
"You could go out for $70,000 or $80,000 and hire an expert to work for you and it would be a lot cheaper than a million dollars," said Greene County Engineer Bob Geyer.
Part-time retirees mow the western county's roads four-to-five times throughout the summer.
Geyer said experiments with chemicals on the county's grass and brush weren't successful.
"It is just not a viable option," he said. "The cost was prohibitive compared to just mow an extra time or two."