The Walker County Commission on Monday agreed to a contract for a $225,516 22-yard, automatic arm garbage truck over five years — an arrangement that may help with maintenance costs and provide a spare truck in the wake of disrupted trash service earlier this year.
The purchase, which will give the county a residential route truck as large as two of its current trucks, is part of plans to cut down maintenance costs and provide regular replacement of vehicles. It also addresses problems earlier this year, when several garbage trucks were down at one time with no spare trucks to pick up garbage. Officials said at the time the repairs had to be out-of-town and were time consuming.
The invoice for the 2020 Heil Liberty truck was for $212,156.76, with annual payments of $45,103.25 over five years, for a total cost of $225,516.25.
Keith Duncan, interim head of Walker County Solid Waste, submitted a document to commissioners saying, "In order to provide the residents of Walker County with more consistent route service, the purchase of new equipment is necessary. The current equipment was purchased (in) 2013-14 as part of a 5-year program for replacement through Ingram Equipment. The proposed truck has the capacity of two of the current residential trucks.
"The proposed truck will replace two of the current residential trucks due to its capacity. This will allow the liquidation of two vehicles and have a spare when needed. The purchase of the truck will help eliminate the cost of truck rentals and show a considerable decrease in major repairs."
Chairman Jerry Bishop indicated during the meeting, and Duncan said after the meeting, that one truck would be sold and one would be kept as a spare. District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis later in the day said it was possible both trucks might be sold, but that in the end probably one will be kept.
Bishop said in the meeting whatever is made from a sale would be put on the cost of the new truck.
County Administrator Robbie Dickerson pointed out in the report that in Fiscal 2019, which ended Sept. 30, that the county had spend $166,000 in rentals and repairs for solid waste. Current year vehicle repair costs are trending over budget by 28 percent.
Documents released by the county showed state auditors saw no problems with the bid process, which was done through Sourcewell, a national, governmental purchasing cooperative. The Nov. 14 bid was to expire 30 days afterward. The purchase comes with a five-year, 150,000 engine, as well as a five-year unlimited transmission warranty.
Davis said during Monday's meeting that the purchase will not require a budget amendment as commissioners budgeted the purchase in advance.
"The Solid Waste Department's current budget for vehicles is $135,000. This line item will more than cover the first year's payment on this vehicle," Duncan said in his report to the commission.
During the meeting, Bishop pointed out the increase in residential numbers. A release from the commission showed the number of residential customers had risen from 5,392 in Oct. 1, 2015, to 6,969 on Oct. 1 of this year. Customers of all services rose in that time from 5,886 to 7,461.
Davis said when he and District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt were in their first years on the commission, a transition was started from an antiquated system where one man would drive and another would take care of the garbage. Davis said he spent a whole day riding the back of one of the trucks to see what the men went through.
"It didn't take us long by the end of the day to see we had to change the system," he said, noting safety concerns and an annual $500,000 annual deficit for the Solid Waste Department when the two commissioners came into office.
Automated trucks were purchased in 2015, with the idea of replacing the equipment "when it needed to be replaced," he said.
Later Monday, Davis explained the county at the time purchased four trucks from around 2013 or 2014. Two of those trucks had lifts the cans are placed on to dump trash (not with arms like the new truck), although he still counted them as automated. He said labor intensive trucks, where three workers were needed with two riding behind the truck, were replaced.
During the meeting, Davids also credited Bishop with streamlining the process over his term.
The 2015 trucks have been paid off for over a year now, Davis said, with one truck ready to be replaced. "And again, that was the plan to start with, the equipment replacement plan that in the long run saves the taxpayers money, plus keeps the services going," he said. "It's about around a $2 million operation" that is time consuming.
"We've noted in the past few months that there have been some issues. There have been trucks that have broken down. Routes have gotten behind. We've had some complaints from customers, taxpayers and citizens on that. That is the reason that happened, is because some of these trucks are at the end of their life cycle. This will help alleviate that and keep things running smoothly," Davis said.
Davis said he appreciated Bishop, Duncan and Dickerson working on the proposal for a new truck.
Aderholt said the overall goal years ago when commissioners started working on the solid waste problem was to prevent solid waste from being supplemented from the General Fund, which was accomplished by erasing its deficit. Davis said $2.5 million was saved during the process and also noted the gain of residential customers on what is a voluntary service.
"The General Fund no longer essentially has to support solid waste," Aderholt said, putting more funds in the General Fund. He noted the equipment "is still relatively up to date."
Bishop said the county has increased in customers, which has resulted in needs for more labor, equipment and maintenance, commending the work of the crews.
After the meeting, Duncan said each of the county's trucks makes roughly about 450 stops per day. The new truck will haul 22 yards of garbage, versus eight yards for each of the two smaller trucks it is replacing.
The new truck will be run over two routes, out of the five routes. While six trucks are now run, only five will now be run the same routes. He said time and miles will be saved filling a truck, going back to the landfill to empty and then return to the area for more garbage.
"That hour and a half to two hour trip, he can finish up his route and then come in," picking up the same number of stops, he said. "And the trucks we are replacing, is a truck that the driver drives on the wrong side of the vehicle, but when he stops he has to get out of the vehicle, pull the container up to the truck and dump it."
He said the new truck is the automatic truck with the arm, with the driver never having to get out of the truck. The spare truck will be the old "labor intensive" kind but the drivers will all be familiar with it and can run it.
Duncan said a few months ago three trucks were in disrepair at one time, which is rare, but one was down an extended period of time. However, all the trucks are now back in good running shape, with plans to eventually replace the vehicles on a regular basis.