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Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Trim Parks With Robotic Lawn Mowers

After a deal between Tuscaloosa and My Goat Inc., maker and distributor of the autonomous grass-cutting devices, the city’s public projects committee has unanimously endorsed a three-year contract with the technology.

Sprinkler watering lawn
(TNS) — Tuscaloosa park-goers be warned: The goats are coming.

No, not the rectangular-pupiled variety. These will be robots.

Robotic lawn mowers, to be precise.

Courtesy of a contract between Tuscaloosa City Hall and My Goat Inc., maker and distributor of the autonomous grass-cutting devices, the City Council’s public projects committee has unanimously endorsed a three-year contract with the Nashville-based company.

Pending final approval by the full City Council, the robotic mowers, called “goats,” will be deployed in Annette Shelby Park at first, with aspirations of moving them to other city-maintained areas, within reason.

“We would never put these mowers on the side of McFarland (Boulevard) or anything like that,” said Jarrod Milligan, acting director of the city’s Infrastructure and Public Services, “but we do have some areas we could strategically put them and there wouldn’t be any issues.”

The 36-month contract will cost $14,088 for the first year and $9,168 for each remaining year, according to the deal advanced by the public projects committee.

Essentially, the city is purchasing the software that will control the mowers while My Goat Inc. will retain ownership and maintenance responsibilities for the devices.

The robots will be set up by “shepherds,” the name of My Goat Inc.’s marketing team, and controlled by underground wires that serve as barriers for their “pens.”

Four pens and, initially, two goats, are planned for the park at the corner of University Boulevard and Queen City Avenue.

The robots are meant for turf-level grass — they won’t be deployed to tackle overgrown areas, Milligan said — but, once in use, the electric-powered mowers will operate around the clock to maintain the grass level desired by City Hall.

“We’re going to start out 24/7,” Milligan said. “And when we get the level dialed in that we like, it’s going to maintain it. You’re not going to see that fluctuation in grass (height).”

To combat theft, the robots are equipped with global positioning systems that will alert the city to their locations. Additionally, they’re designed to shut down if removed from their designated pen, Milligan said.

No city worker is slated to lose their jobs over the goats. Rather, city crews will be brought in regularly to handle edging, landscaping and other duties the robotic mowers can’t perform.

“You’ll always have a person present in these areas,” Milligan said, “but they won’t have to sit there and babysit it while it’s running.”

An attempt at similar robot mowers was attempted by the University of Alabama earlier this year, but efforts by The Tuscaloosa News to learn why it was abandoned were unsuccessful.

Milligan, however, is a firm believer in the devices and predicts that, once deployed over the next month or so, the robotic mowers could mean reduced expenses for taxpayers in the form of lowered fuel costs, equipment maintenance and manpower.

“We’re going to have some savings from this, I believe,” Milligan said.

© 2021 The Tuscaloosa News, Ala. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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