County’s equipment past due for replacement
Shop foreman Chad Lamansky of Jefferson County Secondary Road Department shared a list of department vehicles and a 10 to 11 year cycle replacement schedule at the board of supervisors meeting Monday.
The department has nine (road grader) maintainer vehicles and seven maintainer districts; 12 plow trucks and eight snowplow routes.
“I inherited a backlog of replacement cycles and things are getting past due for replacement,” said Lamansky. “Equipment costs increase 4 percent each year.
“Back in 2002 and prior, the department was buying equipment in pairs, and in 2005 bought three maintainers at once,” he said. “Now, we’re beginning to feel the effects of holding the budget down. Vehicles haven’t been replaced on schedule.
“The longer we hold on to the maintainers, the more they break down.”
Lamansky said the newest dozer in the department is a 1982 model and the oldest is a 1976 model. Road equipment vehicles cannot be compared to personal vehicles for mileage wear and tear.
“These vehicles get used hard and are exposed to sand, salt, hauling and twisting,” he said.
“I just finished making $40,000 in repairs on a Deere that has a $35,000 trade-in value. I am open to suggestions about what to do for replacing some of the equipment.”
Supervisor Dick Reed asked what number is realistically needed.
“What should we be budgeting?” asked Reed. “How much is needed to catch-up, and then what should we be budgeting each year?”
County Engineer Scott Cline said in 2012 the department’s budget for new equipment was $200,000. In 2013, the new equipment budget for Secondary Roads increased to $350,000.
“In 2014, $350,000 isn’t going to cut it,” said Cline.
Supervisor Becky Schmitz said her calculations put replacing old equipment at $2 million.
“Scott, what should the budget [for new equipment] be?” asked supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt.
“The next level would be $500,000,” said Cline. “It would make more of a dent in our replacement schedule.”
Reed asked if the department conducts regular inspections to keep up maintenance to extend the life of vehicles. He suggested a checklist similar to what pilots use before each takeoff.
Drivers conduct inspections and are responsible for oil changes and routine maintenance items of vehicles, said Lamansky.
Cline said having a checklist with a walk around each vehicle could be implemented.
Audience member Don Sanders suggested the department might want to purchase an Ultraprobe, a digital ultrasonic detection hand-held device, retailing around $2,000 that can detect vehicle deficiencies before they are seen.
“Budget planning time is coming up — this is good timing,” said Reed. “Scott told us last week about the costs to upgrade all county hard surface roads, and now Chad is showing us equipment replacement costs.”
The supervisors thanked Lamansky for pulling together the charts and graphs with the number of hours on each vehicle and the replacement cycle, then moved on to discuss the department’s request to purchase a wheeled excavator.
Cline had broached the subject in June, asking to replace a 17-year-old John Deere excavator that needs more repair work than it is worth. Reed had agreed the department needed it but had asked Cline to wait until further into the budget year.
Cline had researched models and said his operators test-drove both a wheeled John Deere and Caterpillar models and preferred the Caterpillar. Buying another Caterpillar also will allow operators to switch between the department’s other Caterpillar machine and share attachments.
In June, Cline said the Caterpillar dealer was offering a good deal: “If we ordered it now, it would be delivered mid-November, which is when payment would be due,” said Cline. “The price will increase if delivery is taken in 2014.”
Monday, Cline said the price has gone up about $6,000, but the warranty has been extended from 3 to 5 years. Delivery would be in March. He wouldn’t publicize the price tag until next week.
“We got to the end of the budget last year and had a hard time putting enough rock down on roads,” said Reed. “We may want to wait.”
Cline said federal flood repair money didn’t come in on time, which is why his department was short for rock purchases at the end of the budget year.
Reed asked if the purchase should be bid.
“I want a model with interchangeable parts with something we already use,” said Cline. “I’m asking if we can just go with the Cat.”
“If it was for my own business, no problem,” said Reed. “I’d have a tendency to say, OK, buy it [the Caterpillar model]. But it’s the taxpayers’ money.”
County assessor Sheri Blough-Neff said it isn’t always the lowest quote that is the best deal.
“Getting the most bang for your buck is a good use of taxpayers’ money,” she said.
Reed then said he’d make a motion for Cline to purchase the caterpillar wheeled excavator if the county attorney would research the amount of spending is required to go to a bid.
“We don’t have to take the lowest bid if we have a reason,” said Reed. “And you’ve given us a reason.”
In other business Monday, the supervisors reviewed a draft of the 28E Agreement among Des Moines, Henry, Lee, Louisa, Van Buren and Washington counties to establish a state-mandated health services region. Jefferson County has asked to join the Southeast Iowa region because the state denied its request to remain a stand-alone, one-county region.
Dimmitt had questions about the funding.
“It seems each county will contribute $1 per capita and all equalization funding,” he said. “They’re talking about levy dollars as well as equalization dollars to be managed by a fiscal agency governing board.
“I don’t know if that’s fair because different counties receive various equalization percentages. Lee County receives none; Keokuk County receives only $600 and we [Jefferson County] get $187,000,” said Dimmitt. “I want to check into this further before signing the agreement.”