Council approves utility truck lease despite objection

Staff writer

Marion City Council members voiced various opinions for options, including a lease-lease agreement with Altec Capital, to replace the city’s primary electric department bucket truck.

“I feel like we need to spend that money on different things,” council member Jerry Kline said. “It (the lease) is a lot of money, $17,000 a year, and what will we have in five years? Because the truck won’t be ours.”

Kline said he knows there needs to be money spent on a truck in the near future and city crews using an unsafe vehicle was the last thing he wanted, but he was unsure about the city spending such a large amount of money on a vehicle it wouldn’t own.

The city will pay a total of $86,157 over five years for a 2014 AT37-G bucket truck, the same type as the 2004 bucket truck the city currently owns. The lease gives the city the option to purchase the vehicle at the end of the five-year lease for its fair market value cost or enter a new lease for a brand new truck.

“At the end of five years we might not have a truck, but we also wouldn’t have to pay maintenance,” council member Jerry Dieter said.

Because of the warranty purchased with the lease, the city will not pay for work, parts, or the yearly inspection required for the vehicle set by the state. The only cost for maintenance will be compensation for the mechanic’s travel.

According to electric supervisor Christian Pedersen’s records, the city spent $7,800 in maintenance and repair costs last year for the current truck.

“Out of all the vehicles in our fleet, this is the one that is used the most,” he said. “It’s used for everything from line repair to storm damage cleanup, and we will have some major repairs to address over the next few years.”

Safety testing has to be completed on the truck every year to make sure no part of the truck or its bucket boom can conduct electricity. Pedersen said the truck will need new injectors soon as well as to address cracks in the fiberglass coating of the boom and bucket.

“The fiberglass works as a shield so that if, say, it’s windy out and an electrical line blows into the truck it won’t conduct electricity,” Pedersen said.

This is a major safety concern especially for Pedersen, whom because of this issue on a previous vehicle was knocked unconscious while in an extended bucket.

“I was in the bucket cutting tree limbs and the wind blew the line right into the boom and it carried the current up to me,” he said. “I couldn’t let go of the saw and didn’t until the current had knocked me out.”

Because he only received a shock from a portion of the electric current running through the line he was not seriously hurt, but he is worried that if the issue is not addressed with the truck then it could hurt one of his co-workers or himself.

“I’m not in favor of keeping this truck if it’s a safety issue but I don’t know if a lease is the right way to go about it,” Mayor Mary Olson said.

Council member Todd Heitschmidt said a benefit to the lease is it would force the city to make a decision about the vehicle in five years, not allowing the truck to remain in the city’s fleet for longer than its expected lifespan.

“If the truck is still in great shape at the end of five years then I’m all for making an offer,” he said. “But it forces us to look at the vehicle and its condition where I feel like we have not done with others in the past and let them be in use too long.”

The lease also allows the city to keep the borrowing capital it would otherwise lose if it went through a bank for funds to purchase a truck.

In the end, the council voted 4-1 in favor of the lease-lease and to trade in the current truck. Kline voted against it.

Olson asked Pedersen to provide council with yearly vehicle condition reports.

“If a vehicle is bad because it hasn’t been replaced when it should I want to know about it so we can try to avoid these high maintenance costs,” she said.

In other business:

  • The council approved an extension on the Jex Addition sewer project where final street patching and seeding was delayed because of weather.
  • The council renewed the city’s annual health insurance contracts with no changes in coverage and a $275 increase in premium per employee.
  • The council renewed the city’s life insurance policies for a 50-cent increase per employee.
  • The council met in executive session for 15 minutes with police chief Tyler Mermis and assistant chief Clinton Jeffrey for problems with personnel.
  • The council approved a payment for $54,809to Vogts-Parga Construction of Newton for the city’s street improvement project.
  • The council approved Chingawassa Days’ request to have a beer garden again this year.
  • Olson signed a proclamation of support for FFA Week this week.
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