- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) - The city’s experimental goat grass-cutting program is still in operation at the city’s landfill and costing the cash-strapped city nearly $2,000 a year.

The startup costs during the first year were more than $10,000, according to The Virginian-Pilot’s archives. These figures don’t include staff salaries.

“They (city staff) care about those goats,” said Dennis Bagley, the former General Services director for Portsmouth. “They are not going to let them go.”

The goat program aimed to find out how much grass the goats could cut around the Craney Island landfill. The state Department of Environmental Quality, which regulates landfills, had been pushing the city to cut the grass more frequently, according to The Pilot’s archives.

The program hit obstacles as two of the original 10 goats died of parasites. The city also got rid of two males who were impregnating the female goats.



It turned out the goats were selective about which grass they ate, so the city bought 10 sheep at $100 a pop. They discovered they would need more than 1,000 animals to cover the roughly 120 acres of land that needed grass-cutting.

Bagley said there were discussions about sending the goats to a zoo after the newspaper wrote an article about the struggling program. He said that he recommended giving the goats to another public entity, such as the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, but that there was no follow-through.

Selling the goats to a private entity could be more complicated, he said. The procurement process would likely require the city to bid the goats out to multiple buyers or hold an auction, he said. Interview requests with City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton, Purchasing Administrator Michael Ammons and Public Utilities Director Erin Trimyer, who recently served as the acting director of General Services, were denied.

Some of the recent costs to the city include $102.90 for a solar panel for the fence and $700 for fence parts, according to a document obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request. The parts were needed because of a windstorm that blew the shelter over, which damaged the electric fence, Bagley said.

The city most recently spent $256.25 in June on feed and medication, which Bagley said was likely to prevent the goats from getting parasites.

The Pilot reported last year that other cities have used goats to cut grass but hired goat-scaping companies to manage the program.

Jace Goodling, owner of a goat-scaping business called Goat Busters west of Charlottesville, said he was surprised the government was going into the goat business. “You’re entering a whole different field of business, of expertise, that local governments are not cut out to do,” he said.

Portsmouth ultimately bought a specialty lawnmower to cut the grass around the landfill and got one more from another city.

“It doesn’t matter to me, whatever they decide they want to do with them: Give them to the zoo, or use them,” Bagley said. “My personal opinion is, there is definitely a use for them. There is just too much around there. But in a smaller location, they can eat up some grass, I will tell you that.”

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com

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