Today I am going to attempt to dig into two points that are on the City Council agenda for tomorrow, Sept. 7th. I hesitate in doing this because I want to avoid “trying an issue in the court of public opinion”. However, as both of these upcoming issues highlight some of the complexity that occurs in city governance, I have decided to do my best in writing up the background of the following agenda items:
6. Plow Truck Purchase for the Public Works Department – Josh Belnap.
7. Bid Approval for Material Crushing – Josh Belnap.
Basic information first.
- Public Works (PW) is one of our largest city run departments as it oversees roads, water, sewer, garbage and recycling, irrigation, storm water drainage and snow removal.
- For reference, I wrote a post about government running like a co-op. In this instance, the public works department handles the services that we, as citizens, like to have and that we can save money on by sharing in the cost of execution.
- A large portion of our tax dollars go to funding public works projects / maintenance.
- The approved PW operating budget for the 2018 Fiscal Year is just over $2.7MM.
- As per city policy, any expenditures exceeding $25K require city council approval.
Let’s delve into the first PW agenda item-
Plow Truck Purchase.
*Disclaimer. I have met with Josh Belnap, the public works director, on two occasions to talk about this particular budget point. I have found him to be open to discussion and forthwith in providing details of how decisions within his department are unfolding.
- This is a snow plow that Kaysville City has been using for a number of years. It is a 1989 rig and, as you can tell, has seen better days. Last season it spent about 30% of the plowing season in the shop getting fixed. After nearly 30 years of life, this machine is no longer meeting the needs of our city. Through the heavy snow fall last winter, the sporadic use of this plow had an effect on how quickly and efficiently our streets could be managed. It will go up to auction next week.
- An outfitted replacement would probably run between $160K-$190K
- During the long plow days last year, the PW director put a plow and salt spreader on one of their smaller, Ram 3500 trucks to help pick up the slack. He found that with the smaller chassis he could maneuver through residential streets and cul-de-sacs more quickly than the bigger trucks that had to make more multi-point turns. The draw back was that the small truck could only haul about a yard of salt and required frequent trips back to the salt lot for salt refilling.
- A 5500 truck can haul about 2.5 yards of salt.
- A new, outfitted F-550 is available for about $80K
- The 2018 FY budget was approved with a $90K line item expenditure for a new plowing rig.
Through the course of discussion, PW decided that purchasing a smaller truck (as apposed to a traditional plow) would save money, increase efficiency and provide reliability in the fleet available during plowing season. This purchase is on the agenda for the council because it exceeds the $25K threshold and requires approval for this direction to be taken.
There are some questions that I have asked in trying to understand the necessity for purchasing an $80K vehicle.
Why can we not use one of the trucks that the city currently has in it’s fleet?
Reasoning from PW: The city does not have a 5500 that could be used for this purpose. As the route that this truck will be taking over is along the east end of Kaysville, using a smaller truck would require more frequent salt refilling and negate the efficiency benefit. The 5500 will also be able to pull double duty in the off season as it can be used for summer maintenance work.
Why purchase a new truck verse looking for a used option?
Reasoning from PW: There is a new truck available, sitting on a lot (no special order required) that the dealer has agreed to outfit with a dump bed, plow and salter. There are no used trucks available that fit this criteria. Buying a used truck and outfitting it would end up in a similar price bracket.
As the council convenes on Thursday evening they will be tasked with deciding if this purchase is the right decision for the city to make with tax payer funds. They will be weighing out question like
- Do we need a replacement vehicle for our public works to effectively provide plowing for our residents?
- Is a smaller truck a better long term option than a traditional plow?
- Does the extra salt towing capacity justify the cost of the new truck or should we trade the efficiency for cost?
- What will the additional cost in man-hours be if a smaller truck is used?
I do not know what course the discussion will take tomorrow night but I am interested to hear a balanced discussion of what is best for the city, the tax payers and our city employees.
Write up of agenda item 7- Bid Approval for Material Crushing.