LaFayette City Manager David Hamilton told the City Council it would save money to contract tree-trimming services rather than doing the job in-house.

The matter was discussed during the Sept. 19 council meeting.

In the past few years, Hamilton said, he has studied how to in-source tree-trimming to save money.

This proved to be too much cost for the city to take on — especially given the labor costs — as opposed to bidding the job out to a trimming company.

After gathering three years of data, averages came to roughly $3,300 (mostly in labor) per mile to trim trees along electric lines within the city.

In addition, the city must have a 4- to 5-year cycle based on industry standards.

The question is, Hamilton said, how much should the city spend per year to keep up and maintain a system of tree-trimming?

"The math comes out to around $83,325," Hamilton said.

"Using some of that same math, we've come up with 22 weeks needed to trim trees if we are going to in-source this. Essentially we would need about half a year of tree-trimming capacity. But it would be difficult to hire an employee that would only work six months a year, so we assumed three full-time employees for four years (at around $15/hour with benefits)," Hamilton said.

In order to do this in-house, he said, this would be at a cost of around $130,000 in labor, with a 10-year depreciation on used equipment at around $15,000, around $12,000 in operations and maintenance costs, thus totaling around $157,000 in total.

To continue to use Trees Unlimited, the cost to the city would total around $83,325 with trimming 25 miles per year to stay on a 4 year cycle.

"It comes up to about $157,000 cost to in-source it," Hamilton said. "So the question is, 'do we have another six months worth of work for those full-time employees?' As you can see, it is pretty close to break even on a time basis, where we are paying in six months to contract about what we would pay in six months to in-source. The question is, what do you do the other six months? The other question is, can we afford $157,000 a year in the operational budget? Right now, don't feel like we can."

Hamilton said the next year's budget, beginning Oct. 1, has $80,000 budgeted for tree-trimming.

Trees Unlimited was brought about two-and-a-half months ago. The council voted to spend around $40,000 in the current budget on tree-trimming.

Hamilton recommended awarding Trees Unlimited the contract for next year's budget, so the trimming progress can continue throughout the city without taking the risk of waiting until June to bid the project out again.

The council voted 4-0 to keep Trees Unlimited's contract in the city and continue the progress.

Josh O'Bryant is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He can be reached at the Walker County Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at jobryant@npco.com.