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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

County holds back on proposal to purchase road tractor

Updated: Jun 6

By Charlene Sims,

MOUND CITY – The Linn County Commissioners spent more time at their Monday, May 6, discussing whether a new road tractor to pull semi-trailers should be purchased for the south road shop. 

It has been an item of discussion for nearly two months, and despite multiple requests from road shop foremen and Public Works Administrator Shaun West, it continued to get a thumbs-down from at least two commissioners.

West told the commissioners that the Nextran bid of nearly $155,000 from March 18 was still good except that they included the kit for $7,500. West said that the county has kept in contact with Nextran and they have continue to push that bid out, but it will probably change soon.

At the April 1 meeting, Commissioner Danny McCullough said that he would not be voting for anything until the county reopened the Pleasanton shop. 

Commissioner Jim Johnson agreed. At the April 22 meeting, the commissioners voted to start moving staff around to open up the road shop at Pleasanton, however, Johnson voted against the measure.

On Monday, May 6, Public Works Director Shaun West again told the commissioners that the county had two road tractors, and it was the one at the south shop that needed to be replaced. It is a 1993 model with more than 200,000 miles. It has a hole in the driver side floor and several maintenance issues.

West said that with the condition it was in, it would have to be red tagged soon. (Red tagging means indicating a safety concern.)

McCullough asked what caused the hole in the floorboard.

West said it was rusted out at the seam in the doorway probably because the rubber gasket in the doorway was impaired. 

At the April 1 meeting, Johnson had asked for mileage usage for the two road tractors that the county has. He said that the mileage was 15,000 total for the last five years. Using that information, Johnson said he only thought the county only needed one road tractor.

West explained that with the new excavators, the county needed the road tractors to haul them around to work areas. West referred to the information that the two road foremen presented at the April 1 meeting. 

Both south road shop foreman Dennis Hardy and north road shop foreman Jesse Walton had told the commissioners that having only one road tractor would decrease the productivity of the road crew. Hardy had told the commissioners that with the new excavators, the shops were hauling equipment as often as they could haul it out.

Hardy said that with only one road tractor, it would be a logistical nightmare. He said that they would be looking at down time waiting on transportation or scheduling work that they could be doing today for the following week because the other shop has the tractor.

West also pointed out that with the commercial driver’s license (CDL) training program the county is offering, they can train drivers for a CDL B but need a road tractor that will pass inspection to train them for a CDL A.

On Monday, West told the commissioners that the road foremen had put quite a bit of  effort and time in coming up with the three-to-five-year equipment plan. He said they had put the spreadsheets together to show that the county has redundant funding going back into those programs. He said that public works had proved that they could keep that funding going.

West told the commissioners at this point, he was in support of their needs and their requests. 

“I don’t think they’re over the top or outrageous,” he said. “I believe they have done the legwork and this year, and last year we have spent less than what that three to five year plan was put in for. 

“We’re under those amounts, and that equipment at this point is going to become even more and more necessary as we keep putting off purchasing trucks, road graders, other things. We’re going to back up into those and then the cost of that equipment is going to overwhelm that fund.” 

Johnson questioned whether another trailer at the Pleasanton shop could haul an excavator. 

West said that the height and length of that trailer was a concern and that it also had a pintle hitch. That the excavators were too long, and because of the height and hitch the trailer rocked with that equipment on it. 

Johnson asked Tod Moeller, the supervisor at Pleasanton shop, to try it again and report back to the commissioners. 

Commission Chair Jason Hightower asked, “We have the money sitting in special equipment? What’s the balance in that account?”

County Clerk David Lamb said that the special machinery fund at the moment has nearly $1.43 million in it.

Johnson said that the county should buy a used truck and save money for no more miles than we are putting on them.

Hightower pointed out that the truck at the north shop, which was purchased used, continued to have repair issues. 

McCullough supported Johnson’s idea of getting some information on used prices. He asked West how long it would take him to get used bids.

West told him that getting bids at this time was not a priority with all of the damage to roadways and bridges caused by the storm. West also pointed out that it was at times like now when they county was working on emergency issues that a second tractor was needed.

Johnson said that other counties operate with less equipment and he would like to see Linn County utilize its equipment.

“I’d rather see the whole north-south thing just goes in one ear and out the other to me.” McCullough said. “I would rather see this thing being moved around the county, kind of like Jim was saying, a full-time driver dropping things off, which is going to require everybody to do a lot more scheduling, which I know is really hard but I mean we’re going to spend $200,000 on a tractor and then in two years spend another $200,000.”

“That equipment plan although we’ve put it out there that equipment plan is a projection I don’t know that in another two years that the other truck will need to be replaced or that there won’t be another priority over it such as a grader or anything else,” said West.

Johnson said “What I am saying is, if it is good enough to keep this long, let’s use the  one truck. Roll along 15,000 miles for five years in my math, that’s 3,000 miles a year.”

“That’s also before we went to equipment that couldn’t be routed like the backhoe,” said West. “and then you’re talking about events like (the recent flooding) where we need to move equipment from bridge to bridge or location to location.”

Johnson said, “Other counties just have one road shop that utilizes one piece of equipment and I don’t think we need two tractors with two lowboys myself. I’d like to see us utilize our equipment.”

McCullough said he would rather figure the scheduling out than purchase a second tractor in two years if we were to go with this.

“I can’t tell you what the next two years will bring,” said West. 

Hightower stated that the county had already taxed the people of Linn County for the $1.4 million that is in the special machinery fund.

Hightower said he was good with going ahead and purchasing this truck and agreed with McCullough on the fact that the commission could reanalyze it when it is time to talk about the other truck.  

McCullough said that he would base his decision on whether to get another truck after another try was made at using the trailer at Pleasanton to haul the excavators. 

West said that he was not only concerned about using that trailer but about the safety aspect of pulling it on a pintle hitch.

He gave the comparison of putting a 350 gallon water tank in an Chevy S10 pickup.

“I don’t think it is the safest method even if it works and can do it. I would use it as a last resort to move equipment,” said West.

McCullough asked West to come back with more facts next week about why it’s not going to work or why it could work.

“And we can make a decision then,” said McCullough.

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