- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—GARNER — Appearance is everything.

If that old adage is true, Garner leaders hope a decision they made last week will improve the town’s appearance and, in the long run, dress the town up for visitors.

Council members approved a plan to request proposals from vendors to cut grass along the medians of U.S. 70 through Garner.

The road is maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and DOT is responsible for maintaining the grass along the side of the road and in the medians.

But DOT’s resources are stretched thin and for some time now, the state has paid Garner $10,000 a year to cut that grass.

Now, though, town officials say the work is more than the town’s public works department can handle properly.

Assistant town manager Rodney Dickerson and Public Works Director Paul Cox led the council through an explanation of the plan, which would call for a private contractor to cut the grass along U.S. 70 from Mechanical Boulevard in the west to Auburn-Knightdale Road in the east on an every-other-week basis.

“Grass shall be mowed not to exceed three inches,” Dickerson said as he read from the request for proposals prepared by the town staff. “They will pick up all the litter. They can’t mow over trash. That is fairly unsightly when that happens,”

Staff is projecting the work will cost the town about $100,000 per year, Dickerson said. Money for the work was set aside in this year’s budget.

“Council’s feeling was this is the town’s main gateway into Garner and wanted to make it visually appealing,” Dickerson said after last week’s meeting.

In addition to mowing, the town will soon consider the addition of flower beds at several major intersections along the corridor, including the Vandora Springs Road intersection with U.S. 70. The town already has some plantings in other locations along the highway, including a flower bed at Timber Drive and at Old Stage Road and U.S. 401.

Council members agreed to seek the bids, but they has questions, too.

Councilman Ken Marshburn asked about the impact of the increased work on traffic.

“I don’t think that will be an issue,” Cox said. “They will be expected to follow DOT safety regulations while they are working.”

Councilman Gra Singleton reiterated the need to free up the town’s public works staff. “I think it’s important to note that the reason we talked about this during the budget cycle, is not only the timing issue, but it’s also an opportunity to take the pressure off staff,” Singleton said.

Dickerson told council members that staff may not recommend the lowest bidder and council may choose to contract with a company that is not the lowest bidder if it believes a higher bidder will do a better job.

Dickerson said appearances will help sell the town, but it’s unlikely the town will be able to point to appearance efforts when it comes to recruiting businesses to Garner.

“You may not ever be able to pinpoint that per se, but perception does impact a lot of things,” Dickerson said. And, he said, if the town emphasizes appearances along the corridor, it may encourage others to do the same.

“It can be a catalyst for private property owners to want to clean up their properties and maybe want to plant some flowers of their own,” Dickerson said.

Whoever contracts with the town will win a two-year contract with two one-year extensions available.

Johnny Whitfield: 919-829-4823, @_JWhitfield

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