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Summer 2011

Utility work machines produce big results on college campus

Utility work machine at the University of Rhode Island

Utility work machine at the University of Rhode Island

Toolcat™ 5600 units and multiple attachments are valuable resource for grounds maintenance staff

At the University of Rhode Island, where they use the slogan "Think Big, We Do," the lands and grounds staff does indeed think big when it comes to maintaining the 40-acre campus. The power units may be small — a pair of Toolcat utility work machines — but with 13 Bobcat® attachments, the results are mighty big.

"The Toolcat 5600 units have had a major impact on the university," says Brian Boesch, turfgrass manager at the Kingston, R.I., campus. "Originally purchased for snow removal, the versatile machines have made us much more efficient and we are able to do many more jobs in-house rather than hiring outside contractors. In the two years we have owned the Bobcat equipment, we have saved significant time and money while improving the quality of our work.

Started with snow

Most students and staff park around the outside and walk into the campus. "That's why clearing the 13 miles of sidewalks is so important," Boesch says. "For a while we were using another vehicle that plowed at the rate of about one mile per hour. If we got a foot of snow it took a long time to clear the sidewalks. The snow was getting packed down. We were losing the battle. As a result, there were a lot of complaints, especially from parents of students. So snow removal became a huge issue."

Toolcat utility work machine

Toolcat 5600 utility work machine

Finding the solution fell into Boesch's lap. He either had to purchase the right equipment, or hire another 25 people and give them shovels.

"It became obvious that if we were going to make a major equipment purchase, we should look at something that could be used throughout the year," he says. "As I checked out several multi-use vehicles, people kept recommending the one-of-a-kind Toolcat utility work machine."

Replacing the previous vehicle with a pair of Toolcat 5600s, two snowblower attachments, a V-blade attachment and two rear-mounted sand/salt spreaders instantly improved snow removal capabilities around the campus. All of the Bobcat equipment was purchased from J. J. Gregory and Son, Inc., the dealer in East Providence, R.I.

"We could never complete clearing sidewalks in an acceptable timeframe," Boesch recalls. "Even though we have a lot of nooks and crannies to plow out, now we can get around the entire campus within 3 to 4 hours, and we do a much better job. Previously we could never completely remove all the snow.

"Both Toolcat machines are set up with spreaders on the back; one has a snowblower, the other the V-blade [both are front-mounted attachments]. The snowblower works better where sidewalks are next to buildings. We use the V-blade on sidewalks in more open areas."

Equipment used every day

The utility work machines and attachments are shared by two crews. The campus crew maintains the grounds, which includes sidewalks, roads, lawns, landscaping and trees. The athletic group takes care of the stadiums (football, soccer, baseball) and fields (softball and practice) and 50 acres of general recreation grounds.

Here is how the other attachments are used with the Toolcat machines around the campus:

Auger: Installs fences, guardrails and other posts. "The mobility of the 5600 enables us to do this type of work fast and efficiently," Boesch says.

Brushcat™ rotary cutter: Mows down tall grass and brush growing around agricultural land, open fields and tree lines.

Chipper: Although not used often, it does an excellent job disposing of small limbs.

Grader: Smoothes out trails and gravel roads. "It also is a great tool for maintaining and refurbishing our softball infields," Boesch says.

Pallet forks: Continuously busy moving supplies, fertilizer and equipment.

Spreader: Fertilizes athletic and recreational fields and is also used for overseeding and sanding icy walks.

Sweeper: Cleans campus parking lots and streets of debris and prepares area for commencement ceremonies.

Stump grinder: Takes out stumps as trees are selectively removed during campus construction projects and landscape improvements. "Given the volume of stumps we anticipate taking out, it was less expensive to purchase this attachment than hire a tree contractor to remove them," Boesch says.

Many of these jobs used to be done by hand or contracted to outside suppliers.

"With budget restrictions, it had always been a struggle to hire others to come in and work on campus," Boesch says. "We always asked what we could do ourselves. With the 5600 machines and all of our attachments, the answer now is, ‘most everything.' With the arrival of this equipment we are more productive, more efficient and staff morale is much higher.

"The Toolcat machines have proved themselves so worthy and productive on campus that the University administration has recently given us approval to purchase three additional Toolcat utility work machines. Additionally, we'll purchase salt and sand spreaders and snowblowers for each machine. We expect to have the new equipment by June."

Click on the photos below for more attachment information.