Councilmen want to be ready for a rainy day

COLUMBIANA – Some on City Council want to see money put aside to fund storm sewer system improvements.

Councilmen Bryan Blakeman and James King mentioned the system improvements before approving the purchase of a new plow truck for the street department this week.

Street Superintendent Jesse Wilson said the 2013 truck is needed to replace the 2001 International model. The frame on the older truck recently broke and it should be out of service, he said.

He estimated fixing the frame would cost $5,000 but doesn’t believe it is worthwhile in the long run as it appears the break happened because of poor design and rust.

The new truck is fully equipped and costs about $127,000 on the state bid, he added.

The truck itself is priced at $72,908 and equipment is around $49,000. A $5,000 warranty on mechanical items is included, which Wilson believes is worthwhile.

“Everyone I talked to says that’s the best money spent. With all the technology nowadays you almost have to have it,” he said.

The truck is also a good purchase, he said, because it has a stainless steel bed and should last at least 20 years.

“I think the main thing is to keep salt out of the steel body trucks and that’s the advantage of the new truck, it does have a stainless steel body,” he said.

The department’s trucks typically rust from the salt used each winter, he explained.

The bed on the 2006 model is currently in need of a sandblast because of rust, and that will cost between $600 and $800, he said.

The new truck is already equipped and ready for purchase and the money will need to be paid up front.

He noted Fairfield Township purchased a brand new truck on a state bid in 2012 and spent $125,000.

“I think it’s a good deal. Of course, the most attractive part to me is you can pick it up tomorrow and use it the next day,” he said.

King asked if they could get money for the 2001 model, but Wilson said no. He did say someone is willing to feature the truck on their lot to see if anyone is interested.

Finance Director Mike Harold said the new truck will be paid for out of the capital improvement fund, which is currently at $718,000. The fund is fed by the city’s income tax which is split between the general fund and capital improvement fund.

Blakeman and King said they would like to see some of that money set aside for storm sewers, and Blakeman asked Harold if any of that money was already targeted for future projects.

Harold said the city has already completed most of the planned projects this year, and it is possible to set money aside.

According to the 2011 preliminary engineering report for the city’s $18 million storm system improvement project, the city has had storm sewer issues the last several years mostly in areas developed before the 1970s.

The project was initiated that same year, with then-Manager Keith Chamberlin seeking grant funding and no-interest or low-interested loans to help pay for the project.

The city had about $200,000 set aside in capital improvement money in October of 2011, and exactly how the remainder of the project would be funded was a topic of discussion before the 2011 general election.

Blakeman believed the project should move forward with the assurance residents would not be taxed for the cost later, while Councilman Lowell Schloneger said that may be necessary.

Then-councilman Bob Bieshelt said it should be a “pay-as-you-go” project.

Council members did not discuss the project in detail this week, but City Manager Lance Willard said he would look into setting money aside in the capital improvement fund for that.

He also said he would like to see improvements at the railroad underpass, also a site of storm sewer problems.