Feature Article - September 2022
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Solid Grounds

Savvy Strategies for Managing Diverse Spaces

By Dave Ramont

Teamwork & Networking

Grounds managers wear many hats, and oversee many operations that require specialized training, including their communities' sports fields. "One of the biggest challenges we're facing now is meeting the demand for field and court space for sports such as cricket, lacrosse and pickleball," said Angevine. "The demand is increasing faster than our ability to meet it."

Hardscape areas are another facet of many groundskeepers' duties, which might include trails, walkways and parking lots. "Picking up trash alone can be a full-time job most days," said Kormos, "then add in weed control in these areas and patching holes and sealing cracks. Fortunately we have great support from other departments of our city to help. Facilities would be difficult to maintain without teamwork."

Many departments utilize outside help on occasion to assist with specialized tasks or to simply get some breathing room. "We contract out enough work to have a full-time contract manager," said Angevine. "Some of the work is specialized such as pest control and security services, but it also includes a large amount of right-of-way maintenance that we have limited ability to address in-house."

"If we're not equipped to do a job or don't have the expertise needed, we outsource to contractors to ensure quality work," said Haley. "During the growing season, there are times we'll outsource work to keep up. This has become more common lately with the difficulties hiring employees."

Indeed, as with many industries and businesses, our grounds sources reported that staffing has become a struggle. "In 2022 our supplemental employee budget was restored to pre-pandemic levels, but hiring has been challenging," said Angevine. "We've been fortunate to get good people, however, we're not able to hire as many employees as we sought to, and did increase the base rate of pay to try to better compete with other local agencies."

All the managers we spoke with related how important networking is to their profession. "There's always interaction to solve problems, brainstorm, etc. Getting feedback, ideas and advice from your friends is a great way to fix or get ahead of some situations," said Kormos.

Ellison discussed a tree managers group in Wyoming comprised of city, county and state foresters and arborists that meets quarterly, as well as other organizations, workshops and conferences. "I'm fortunate that there are several networking groups available to me that are often invaluable."

"Networking is probably the best way to get new information," said Haley. "There are so many smart managers out there with unique circumstances. The wider your reach, the better your chance of having a contact with an answer. This is where organizations such as PGMS (Professional Grounds Managers Society) excel. Having an entire organization of like-minded people in your profession makes networking easy and fun!" RM