By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—A group of skateboarders talking about getting a taco 12-pack of Taco Bell noticed something wasn’t right about a mower sticking out of Sand Creek near the restaurant.
“Just the nose was in the water,” said Hondo Collins, city of Newton parks superintendent.
At the time, Newton Parks Supervisor Tyler Schmidt was using the city’s remote control mower at that location and the kids asked him if he needed help. Schmidt told them it was remote controlled and they said, “That’s dope.”
The remote control mower isn’t like the toy remote control vehicles. It’s fairly large and cost a pretty penny at $56,800. Collins said they had it in the budget to replace a tractor with an A-boom attachment, so they got this instead. The tractor alone would’ve been $45,000-$50,000 and the A-boom was another $25,000-$30,000, so they saved money.
The remote control mower is more versatile and can help save employees from getting injured, as they need to mow on the slanted ground at times.
The tractor needed flat ground on which to rest to use the A-boom, and a flat area isn’t at Sand Creek, Collins said.
“We try to be as efficient as possible,” Schmidt said.
Collins said the mower can do a 50-degree slope.
“I don’t even want to walk a 50-degree slope,” he said.
It does the job and the city doesn’t have the danger of a mower rolling over on an employee.
“I put a mower in the creek over there,” Collins said about one time. “I put a $25,000 mower in the creek. I rode it down.”
He said the engine was ruined and he was OK. That was before the creek bed was redone. Schmidt said the Sand Creek slopes are about at a 30-degree angle now.
The mower does its mowing equally well going forward and reverse until it ends up at the top of a slope.
“That helps reduce erosion,” Collins said.
The primary benefits of having the mower are the safety factors and being able to maintain areas they haven’t previously been able to maintain. Before, city workers had to do the cutting manually with weed eaters and chainsaws using a lot of manpower.
Another benefit is it can pull itself out if it gets stuck because it has a winch, Schmidt said. When it gets stuck, it teeters, since it’s on tracks.
The city obtained the mower toward the end of 2020.
“We had a couple waterways we couldn’t maintain, so we had to get this,” Collins said.
In the past, they weren’t able to mow small trees, so they needed to remove them every five to 10 years. Between 12th and Main on the west side of the street took the parks department a month to remove the woody growth off that side. Now, it just takes a good day to mow that.
The mower, which hasn’t been given a name, runs on gas.
“They say it has a 300-foot range for the remote,” Collins said, adding technically, it has a range of a half mile.
The mower never runs by itself and has a variety of safety features, like if it’s still for more than five seconds, it’ll shut off. If the hand controller tips, it also will shut off and it has a 52-inch cut with tracks being 6.5 feet wide. It’ll cut down a 1.5-inch diameter tree with the flail blades on it and is made in the USA.
To transport it anywhere, it takes workers some time to safely load it onto a trailer and fasten it down.