Excessive Costs, Delayed Deliveries Plague Northumberland County Fleet

In City Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Ballooning costs and delivery dates years into the future may force Northumberland County to look at changing the way they currently replace vehicles in their fleet.

The latest example of both came at the June Public Works Committee meeting of county council, as Manager of Road Operations Brooke Gillispie detailed how their replacement of a combination tandem snowplow truck would cost about 18% more than planned and may not even be delivered for a couple of years.

“We still don’t have two units we were to receive in 2022, and it should be at least 2024 before we get them,” Gillispie told the committee.

The unit being replaced has reached the 10-year mark at which replacement is considered. It works on County Roads 2, 20, 18 and 74 and, for the last two years, has required about $20,000 worth of repairs and maintenance annually. By the time it arrives, she estimated, the unit will be 16 years old and have mileage of more than 300,000 km.

When the tender went out for its replacement, $360,000 had been budgeted. They got one bid from Winslow-Gerolamy for $393,185 plus HST. An additional $40,105.06 will have to come from the Transportation Division’s capital reserve.

“I think it would be important that we move as quickly as we can so we get this secured,” Gillispie suggested.

Committee member John Logel said he is seeing the same situation at Alnwick-Haldimand Township, a departure from a time when replacement times ran more to six months.

Committee member Mandy Martin added that the vehicles they are seeing purchased by Cramahe Township don’t seem to do well in terms of the integrity of the body against rust and salt.

Their response has been to approach big companies and industries to enquire about possibly purchasing used vehicles from them.

“We have had good luck with this,” Martin said.

She acknowledged it goes against the conventional wisdom of buying new vehicles. But sticking with new vehicles these days has come to mean being held hostage by lack of suppliers and lack of reliable delivery times. It’s just not a sustainable model, she stated.

Director of Public Works Denise Marshall said the county has begun to look at used vehicles for some of their needs, vehicles which may not entirely meet their specifications but will serve. But this brings the challenge of looking over what’s available and trying to ensure that a purchase is a good investment that will not require undue levels of maintenance.

Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Moore said that they may have to consider ordering replacement vehicles a year sooner than they otherwise might have in order to get replacement in a more timely manner.

Logel said his township has taken an extra step to get the best life out of its vehicles, as unveiled in last weekend’s opening of their new public works building – one of its features is a proper vehicle-washing station, “an actual bay we will be able to use to clean off the trucks, which we have been doing the best we could without one.

“We will expect the guys to go in there every day when they are done, and we should get some extra life with those trucks.”

Meanwhile, the committee proceeded with arranging the purchase and the transfer from reserves.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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