What once took weeks now only takes one or two days since the city purchased a 350-horsepower Model 1680XP-Series Beast horizontal grinder
Things are good in Goodlettsville’s public works department since it has come up with an elegant solution that works best for them for disposing of the city’s ample urban tree and wood waste.
It seems like such a tiny task for the suburb of Nashville, a city that spans 15.5 square miles and has a population of nearly 17,000. Collecting and disposing of tree limbs is one of the many things that the city’s busy Public Works Department contends with, but the tree and wood waste was a big job. In fact, it was a full-time job. Collecting the fallen branches and trees is still a full-time job, but disposing of them isn’t. What once took weeks now only takes one or two days since the city purchased a 350-horsepower Model 1680XP-Series Beast horizontal grinder, said Goodlettsville Public Works Superintendent Amy Murray. She said the city finds that it’s an effective alternative to wood chippers that works well for them.
Instead of running a pair of aging chippers from another manufacturer for weeks at a time, and pulling a crew off other projects to man them, the Beast runs two days a month, freeing up workers for other important projects.
“That efficiency has spilled over and has allowed us to spend time doing more right-of-way maintenance projects, more pothole patching, more drainage work, more sidewalk work. The list goes on,” Murray said. “We’re able to get to projects in the city a lot faster because of the efficiency we’re seeing.”
There is a lot of increased productivity. The chipping work is getting done with fewer workers and less fuel. Before the Beast, the city was also backlogged with work, so it was slow to respond to complaints about downed trees and limbs cluttering up neighborhoods. At the longest, it could take up to eight weeks to get around to a house. With the increased efficiency, the city has cut it down to five or six weeks on average. But Murray isn’t satisfied with that. She wants to see that response time decrease further.
The city is also spending less money on disposing of the end product — sometimes just covering transportation costs — and the public is able to get a high quality mulch that is literally home-grown and homemade.
“Before we got this piece of equipment, if we were backlogged, we would have to call in outside companies to come in and haul the limbs away,” she said. “And that would cost thousands at a time.”
Not anymore, though. Since the Beast was delivered in December, 2013, there hasn’t been any need to call for help.
What makes the Beast so much more efficient is the setup compared to the city’s previous solution — a collection of aging hand-fed wood chippers. The newest was roughly 12 years old, Murray said. Those older chippers were wearing out their welcome, she said. Breakdowns would take longer to repair because the manufacturer would have to make parts from scratch.
When the chippers were running, two men would have to feed each machine by hand. The chips would then be loaded into a truck and hauled to a landfill near Nashville, costing the city money to transport the material and to dispose of the chips. With the Model 1680XP Beast, one man can operate the remote-controlled Beast from the comfort of a loader tractor, grinding the material into a high-quality mulch.
The 18-inch capacity means plenty of material can be loaded into the machine and processed quickly. The mulch can be loaded off the machine’s 30-foot discharge directly into a truck and transported to area parks that use the material in the flower gardens, or it can be piled at the public works lot and city residents can haul it away for their own use.
Murray said the increased productivity means when a bad storm comes through and knocks down trees, the Public Works crews can easily respond, collect the material and process it. Which is good, because at any given time, the city could see severe weather that increases the workload.
“It’s always busy,” Murray said. “We’re always picking up material. When a storm comes through, the work triples. We have a lot of wood waste. Now that we’re able to grind it to mulch and give it away, we have found a couple of places here that we can take material at no charge.”
That’s a big deal for the city, said city manager Tim Ellis. The city doesn’t yet have a clear idea on how much money stands to saved by using the Beast, but it’s been noticeable enough in the nine months that the machine’s been in use.
“That’s kind of the whole purpose of it,” he said. “To give something that does save money.”
One of those people is Robert Jones, a public works crew leader and main operator of the Beast. He’s been with the Goodlettsville Public Works Department for years and he had gotten used to the chippers when processing wood. In fact, he had a hard time believing the Beast would be that much faster.
“Before, we thought using the chippers was the fast way. Looking back on the old route, I don’t see how we got as far as we did before. Everything about the machine is surprising,” he said. “It’s a great machine. It’s been the best thing we’ve purchased yet. And as far as the efficiency, you couldn’t go wrong.”
Murray said when it comes to upgrading machines, the city looks to be as efficient as possible. That includes going through organizations like NJPA, which saves time by avoiding costly bidding processes.
“The City of Goodlettsville prefers and encourages purchasing as efficiently as possible. That’s why we look for NJPA vendors when we make investments in the equipment that we need. By obtaining NJPA-approved products and services, it allows the City not to have to duplicate the expensive and time consuming bidding process – saving everyone time and money.”
Public Works Director Guy Patterson said the Beast was a machine that they didn’t have in their budget, but once they saw it they realized it would be an invaluable addition.
“When you looked at the other types of machines, for our operation, and for our size, this just fit perfectly,” he said. “What we’re saving in fuel is incredible. It’s definitely paying for itself.”