City employee offers cost-saving suggestion

An ancient Japanese relative of the carp that can live for centuries makes its home in the ponds of the Lightner Museum courtyard; and, thanks to a suggestion from a property services employee, the City is paying less to feed them.

Koi are an omnivorous fish and will often eat a wide variety of foods, including peas, lettuce, and watermelon. In past years, the City would purchase specially designed Koi food — not only to be nutritionally balanced, but also to float. When they are eating, the floating food encourages the Koi to come to the surface; making it possible to check them for parasites and ulcers.

For the past five years, David Wheelus has performed building maintenance for the Property Services Division for the City of St. Augustine. His supervisor, Mark Harrington, told Historic City News that Wheelus has been a valuable employee.

When John Regan recently took over his position as City Manager, he called a meeting of all city employees — at that meeting, he asked everyone to do their part to help the city control operating costs and encouraged employees to submit their ideas for saving money to the City Manager’s Office.

Wheelus was one of the first to respond with a practical idea that seems to be working just fine.

Koi will recognize the person feeding them and gather around them at feeding times. They can be trained to take food from your hand. Wheelus said that when children would visit the pond, city employees would give them a cup of Koi food to feed the fish.

Wheelus made the suggestion that the city place coin-operated feeders on either side of the footbridge so that visitors could serve themselves and the city could recover some of the cost of feeding the fish.

Wheelus told Historic City News that he took the first batch of coins from the feeders last week and that he was impressed with the number of quarters they had collected.

In last week’s meeting of the City Commission, Regan addressed the Board and told Wheelus’ story. Even though the Koi feeders are a small improvement, we salute David Wheelus and hope he will be an inspiration to other city employees to do their part to lower the cost of operating our city government.

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

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