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AUSTIN EDITION -- Shared tree trimmer for Austin departments on hold

Proposal expectedto come up again

By Nikki Merfeld

*merfeld@postbulletin.com

A plan to have one tree-trimmer work for two Austin departments won't come to fruition this year but will come up again, according to at least one department head.

The Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department had approached Austin Utilities about sharing a full-time person to prune boulevard trees. The proposal was to have the utility pay the person's salary and work with the park and rec crew.

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Austin Utilities contracts on an hourly rate to have trees trimmed around power lines.

At Friday's city council work session, park and rec Director Denny Maschka said the proposal would require the city to re-evaluate a job description, which would make the proposal more costly. The tree-trimming job is the highest-paid position within park and rec, Maschka said. The wage is higher than others because of the risk involved in working in a boom with a chain saw, he said.

As is, the two-man crew has a trimmer and a chipper operator. The chipper operator's job would have had to be re-evaluated, said Maschka. Without the third, shared position, that does not have to occur, he said.

Maschka said he plans to present the plan again later this year to see if there's another way to make it cost-effective for the two departments.

On a separate matter, George Brophy, executive director of the Development Corp. of Austin, said the agency will move from its current offices at Riverland Community College to the former site of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bureau moved out of Town Center in January and is leasing space in the same building as Golden Tress, near the new Spam Museum.

The Development Corp. will gain about 45 percent more office space in the move, said Brophy.

"A motivating factor for us is it will enhance our relationship with city staff and provide greater levels of support for all of the business community," he said.

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