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Council gets look at requested capital improvements

By Staff | Sep 25, 2012

A Cape Coral resident had his questions on the way the city buys its equipment when he spoke during public input at Monday’s City Council workshop meeting Monday at City Hall.

Public Works Director Jeff Pearson had the answers.

Resident Dan Shepard questioned the council on the rationale behind buying all new equipment such as trailers, excavators, backhoes and a wheel loader, among other things, which will cost the city more than half a million dollars.

“That’s a big list of equipment. When I needed a new truck, I put in a new motor and new transmission,” Shepard said. “That’s the difference between government and business. Our city overbuys.”

Pearson begged to differ, and he had stats and pictures to support the city position.

Pearson said the equipment was as much as 20 years old, with as much spent on repairs as it costs to buy brand new. He also showed photos of the equipment in a state of disrepair.

“Repairs can end up exceeding the useful value of the vehicle and it’s time to get something newer,” Pearson said.

The loader, for example, was purchased in 1993 and had more than 6,000 hours on it. Rising repair costs were making the old loader, which Pearson said was used almost daily, a money pit.

Pearson said that call is usually made by the fleet managers, who look at the records and determine whether a piece of equipment has reached the end of its useful life.

The trailers, in particular, looked as though it would disintegrate with all the rust eating through the metal.

The cost for the backhoes, excavator, trailers and loader was $380,286.68, and his presentation drew rave reviews.

“Seldom have we had a consent item so well presented,” Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail agreed, adding, “This is analogous to the police cruisers. We haven’t done capital improvements. This isn’t Christmas, this should have been replaced.”

Council still had questions regarding whether the equipment could be used in other departments, not just public works, but perhaps for the Parks & Rec. Mayor John Sullivan asked if the equipment could be “pooled.”

Shepard made a suggestion, which council seemed to like, that perhaps Pearson could find slightly-used equipment at a discount. Police did something similar recently, buying used vehicles for official personnel.

Pearson said he would look into that before the consent items come to a vote next week.

Earlier in the meeting, Pearson came to the podium to ask for three spare vertical turbine pumps for the Canal Pump Stations Nos. 3, 4 and 5, at a cost of $139,031.13.

Part of the problem with the pumps, beside their age, is the fact that the equipment at the stations was fitted for different brand pumps, Pearson said. To make the same pumps fit would require work.

This worried McGrail, who asked if the pump purchases could be phased in. Pearson said they could, but if a pump went down, there would be no backup to keep up pressure in the irrigation systems, with replacement which could take months.

Sullivan also wondered why the pumps weren’t all one brand, as they were supposed to be.

“Why did we stop that? The pumps were more expensive, but more reliable, lasted longer and parts were easier to get,” Sullivan said.

The purchases, made as part of the 2012 fiscal year, were consummated by piggybacking quotes, bids or contracts awarded by other entities.

“We’ve known these items have needed to be replaced for a long time. However, the money for capital improvements wasn’t there and was delayed,” Pearson said. “We’re not efficient if we have equipment that doesn’t work well.”