Franklin County has found a better way to whack roadside weeds.
Commissioners have decided to let the Franklin County Noxious Weed Control Board take over the job, which has for three years been done by a contractor in Ephrata.
The switch won't save money initially, but could lead to a savings in the long term.
Weed board coordinator Victor Reeve told commissioners that he could get the job done for about $7 per mile on the county's 598 miles of paved roads and 395 miles of gravel roads. The county currently is paying about $11.50 per mile.
The cost of chemicals is in addition to those hourly rates.
There are just fewer than 2,000 spray miles in the county, and applications typically are done in the spring and fall, Reeve said.
The county pays about $45,000 for each spring and fall treatment, Reeve said. He figures he can cover the same ground for $27,804.
But while the hourly savings looks good on paper, Reeve said he has to spend about $35,000 up front to purchase a surplus 1,500-gallon spray truck from the Department of Transportation and outfit it with a new electronic controller system.
There is also a $5,000 annual insurance cost.
Reeve said he can recover that $35,000 through the hourly savings after doing about 8,750 miles of roadside spraying.
"We'll do this for the same price of the last three years. Initially there will be no change in the cost," Reeve said.
Franklin County's noxious weed spraying program costs $128,376 as an average annual expense between 2007 and 2011, Reeve said. About one-third of that amount, or $42,792, was for application, while $85,584 was for the chemicals.
Reeve said the noxious weed control board proposal could see a reduction in application costs.
"Under optimal conditions it would be $35,280," he said. But that 17 percent savings would largely depend on the weather.
Weed spraying cannot be done when there is wind, which can be frequent in the spring in the Tri-Cities, he noted.
The real advantage to having the county agency take over the spraying is better control over the application process, Reeve said. Potential cost savings are a bonus.
The single-mix application would be done in March to control grass and broadleaf plants along the road edge, with a second treatment in June for non-sensitive areas. The sensitive areas and residual area treatments would be done during the winter months from November through February, Reeve said.
Commission Chairman Brad Peck said he was reluctant at first to have the weed board do work now contracted out to a private company, but appreciated the benefits of having more local oversight and better service, along with the potential for cost savings.
Commissioner Bob Koch said he also liked the proposal.