For the past several weeks, some members of the local media have been covering the city of Grovetown’s “new” plan to have six goats clean up 25 of the city’s overgrown areas located around its retention ponds.
“The goats are an experimental move as the city looks to maintain its 25 retention ponds officials said would cost thousands of dollars to hire a company to maintain the severely overgrown areas,” The Columbia County News-Times recently reported. “The total cost for the goats and materials to build the shelter inside the gated retention pond has only cost the city about $1,000.”
A news report on WJBF featured Grovetown Mayor Gary Jones insisting that the program was going to save taxpayers in Grovetown thousands of dollars each year because the goats will be able to get into areas where machines or bush hogs can’t maneuver.
And those goats will eat anything, including sharp brier, Jones said.
What a brilliant idea, isn’t it?
Whoever came up with this wise method of saving the city money should really be commended, right?
In the recent media reports on Grovetown’s goat program, there was no mention of the local leader who originally brought such an idea to the CSRA.
More than six years ago, back when Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams was running for his former District 2 commission seat against the then-incumbent commissioner Corey Johnson, Williams made a suggestion that many voters immediately said was just another one his “insane” ideas.
During his campaign in 2010, Williams walked down Kent Street in the inner city and pointed to the home of a former principal of Lucy Laney High School who passed away several years ago.
“This was a really affluent neighborhood at one time,” he said. “But, now, look at the bars on the windows. Look how people are living. It’s a shame.”
On one side of the road was a house with a beautifully manicured lawn, a garden and sturdy fence around the property.
Next door was a shell of a home that no longer had a roof and a tree was growing up through the middle of the house.
“That house has been burned out for years, but no one is doing anything about it,” Williams said in 2010. “And this property owner has had to look at it every day.”
Like many of Williams’ ideas, he believed the problem of overgrown lots could be solved by thinking out of the box.
“I’ve seen in Atlanta and other cities, they take a herd of goats and put them in a place that is fenced in and they eat up the vegetation,” he said in 2010. “The goat is the only animal you don’t have to buy food for. They eat everything.”
Many people thought it was an absolutely absurd idea, but Williams insisted it had been proven successful in other cities.
“We need some new ideas,” he said. “District 2 needs help.”
When Williams presented these ideas to voters six years ago, many people laughed at his suggestion and even nicknamed him, “The Goatman.”
Well, now Williams is having the last laugh.
Back in 2014, the Augusta Commission finally listened to Williams and approved a pilot project that would purchase a small herd of goats to maintain the vegetation in a few of Augusta’s fenced retention ponds for the low price of $500.
The city’s engineering department told commissioners that they were swamped with trying to maintain the ponds and needed all the help they could get.
What better help than from a goat?
You don’t have to pay a salary, they eat everything in sight and there is minimum cost to shelter and care for the goats.
Ever since the program began in August of 2014, it has been a complete success and has even been expanded with the support of the Augusta Commission.
Not only has it helped cut back on the weeds and overgrown lots around the retention ponds in Augusta-Richmond County, but it also aided with mosquito control over the summer because crews were able to access and treat the ponds located near neighborhoods.
Two years after the program began, the goats just continue to eat and eat and eat.
As a result, the city is saving thousands and thousands of dollars each year.
So, while Grovetown city leaders are getting a big pat on the back this week for coming up with such an ingenious way of getting goats to maintain their city’s retention ponds, they weren’t the first ones to come up with the idea.
One man in Augusta should be standing a little taller this week: Mr. “Goatman” Williams.