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Capitol grounds crew goes electric

Scott Hobbs, a Grounds and Nursery Specialist 3 for General Administration, makes his Capitol Campus rounds Monday afternoon in one the agency's new electric service trucks leased from the Western Equipment and Irrigation Co. in Seattle.
Scott Hobbs, a Grounds and Nursery Specialist 3 for General Administration, makes his Capitol Campus rounds Monday afternoon in one the agency's new electric service trucks leased from the Western Equipment and Irrigation Co. in Seattle. The Olympian

OLYMPIA - The Capitol Campus building and grounds crew have made the switch from gas-powered trucks to battery-powered vehicles, a move designed to save the state money and curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Grounds crew member Scott Hobbs is assigned one of the six electric trucks leased by the state Department of General Administration. Monday was his first day behind the wheel.

“I’m surprised how snappy they are,” he said. “And they’re quiet — I have to be more aware of pedestrians because they can’t hear the engine.”

General Administration expects to save about $42,000 a year through discontinued use of 25 gas vehicles in favor of the electric vehicles. It also translates into an annual greenhouse gas emission reduction of 34 tons.

The vehicles are in response to a 2009 directive by Gov. Chris Gregoire to reduce the carbon footprint of landscaping activities on the Capitol Campus, noted recently appointed GA Director Joyce Turner.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” she said. “Plus, this makes financial sense.”

Use of the electric vehicles fits in with other new practices for maintenance of capital grounds. They include:

 • Cut the grass when it reaches 3 inches high instead of the previous 1.5 inches to save water and reduce labor costs.

“The lawns don’t look as well-kept, but we’ve had very few complaints,” General Administration grounds supervisor Mark Robb said.

 • Leave the grass clippings on the lawn, which reduces labor, improves soil health and reduces irrigation.

 • Use only organic fertilizers on all campus and park lawns.

 • Increase composting of discarded plant material.

Robb said the electric vehicles can travel about 40 miles on a full battery charge. Hobbs estimated he drives 6 to 10 miles a day to his various assignments.

Employees assigned a truck are expected to recharge the batteries every night at the east or west campus plug-in stations. The vehicles are used to haul grass, bark, dirt, weeds, lawnmowers, blowers and other equipment.

“You can drive them on the sidewalks, which makes it easier to get everywhere on campus,” Hobbs said.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

jdodge@theolympian.com

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