Mean streets: Salt treatment for snowy roads taking toll on DPW fleet
Published 8:25 am, Thursday, December 12, 2013
The salt used to treat roadways during snowstorms is wreaking havoc with the town's fleet of snow plows and trucks, according to Stephen Edwards, director of public works.
Edwards on Wednesday requested an appropriation of $60,000 from the Board of Finance to the Department of Public Works vehicle maintenance/operations equipment account for unanticipated costs associated with maintaining the aging public works equipment.
The $185,000 already appropriated for that account has been spent, he told the board. He said the 28 vehicles in the public works fleet went for a recent inspection.
"We were barraged with major repairs" that were needed, he said. That included replacing all the fuel tanks as well as fuel injectors and other items.
"The fleet is deteriorating," he said.
A major factor is the salt used to treat streets during icy conditions and snowstorms. "That's causing the early demise of the vehicles," he said.
He said the salt is "good for the roadways, but not for the equipment."
Edwards said that while the trucks in the current fleet don't have much mileage -- from 30,000 to 40,000 miles each -- they are worked hard.
He said UPS trucks can last from 15 to 18 years, but the town's fleet "should be replaced from eight to 12 years max," he told the board.
Edwards said he will "try to make it through the rest of the year" with the existing fleet, but said replacements are needed "sooner rather than later."
That, he said, would cost the town about $1.5 million. He said that even if that amount were approved, it would take about a year and a half to get a new vehicle, a plow or a truck, because orders are backlogged.
"It sounds like you are between a rock and a hard place," said Board of Finance Chairman John Pincavage.
Right now, the fleet is up and running, Edwards said, adding he usually deploys the majority -- 17 of 19 -- of the snow plows and trucks during a storm.
Pincavage asked if the DPW uses outside contractors during storms.
"We use three different" contractors for the schools and downtown, Edwards said. "The roadways we do in-house," he added.
The board approved the request on a vote of six in favor with one abstention.