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DOT to keep highway mowing limitations statewide

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
July 31, 2009

Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials will not yield to a request from Walworth and six other southeastern counties to lift restrictions on county mowing along state highways, an official said.


The state contracts with counties to mow along state highways, but in an effort to save money the state is paying counties to mow only once this summer instead of three times.


In a letter to Gov. Jim Doyle, officials from Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties, said they “do not believe a one-size-fits-all approach” is consistent with the needs of urban areas.


In the letter, officials wrote the mowing limits is starting to backfire on cost-savings: Vegetation gets so tall and heavy, county workers sometimes need to use heavier equipment and pass the mower more than once to get rid of it, increasing cutting costs.


Walworth County Director of Public Works Shane Crawford, who signed the letter, said going back to three cuts per season would be great, and two cuts would be OK.


“Every season, we go through this with the DOT, where they have budgetary restrictions,” Crawford said. “They come to us and say, ‘Well, we’re going to do more of this and less of that.’”


Crawford said Walworth County will be less affected by the measure than other counties because fewer state roads cut through urban areas, compared to Waukesha and Kenosha counties.


“To be quite frank, it really did not affect us to the degree that it affected almost everybody else,” he said.


David Vieth, director of the DOT Bureau of Highway Operations, said the department is not in a position to allow mowing “geared toward aesthetics and stewardship.”


He cited a 9 percent reduction in the bureau’s budget and the rising cost of salt—about $17 million more than last year—as reasons why the department cannot pay for mowing that doesn’t directly affect safety.


“Its’ very unlikely that we will be able to go back with a service like that,” Vieth said.



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