Public Works Director Tim Hanser has recommended that the city replace three aging snowplows as well as three other vehicles within the department as priorities.
Hanser said the three 1987 Ford F-800 trucks are part of a fleet of 10 plows. Each vehicle is assigned to a plowing route in the city.
“They’re long past their lifespan,” Hanser told the City Council on Monday. “Pieces are basically welded together to keep them going each year. The only saving grace is that the engines have held up.”
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Hanser has also said the next top priorities for vehicle replacement in the would be a 1994 Ford Vac-Con truck and two 1990 Steco trailers. The Vac-Con, which is used for pumping and clearing sewer systems and storm drains, has broken down. One of the trailers, which are used by the solid waste division, was recently totaled in an accident and the city has been borrowing a trailer from Willimantic.
Hanser estimated that each plow would have a replacement cost of $180,000, with an annual principal payment of $36,000 on a 10-year lease. He estimated the Vac-Con replacement would cost $350,000 with $70,000 annual payments over a 10-year lease while the trailers would each cost $55,000 with an $11,000 annual payment.
In a memo from Hanser to Finance Director Jeff Smith, Hanser suggested that $3,223,825 would be necessary for vehicle upgrades across the city, at annual principal payments totaling $644,765. This plan lists 17 vehicles in Public Works totaling $1.85 million, six in the totaling $860,000, and five in general government totaling $191,825. The number of vehicles in the was not specified, but estimated replacement costs there were $322,000.
Hanser said the city plans to replace each general government vehicle and five in Public Works with ones that run on compressed natural gas. He said the city would be partially reimbursed for each of these purchases and install its own infrastructure for this fuel. Hanser said the system may be included in the next capital plan but that it is not included in the current one.
Hanser said Smith recommended that $1 million would be a more affordable sum for vehicle replacement and allow the city to prioritize which vehicles should be replaced. Smith said the city should ideally be able to replace some vehicles each year out of its general operating budget, but that it is not possible in this fiscal year due to revenue shortfalls and other financial difficulties.
“Obviously our needs are a lot greater than our ability…This is the kind of thing we really shouldn’t borrow for, but we’ve got to,” said Smith.
The council tabled the matter for further discussion by the Finance Committee, which is also considering two other major expenditures. One would . Another would appropriate $2 million in funding from an existing $15 million bond for paving projects in the 2013 fiscal year.