2012-12-06 / Front Page

County ponders buying $30K truck

Vehicle would be financed with medical savings, rent increases

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners is considering purchasing a new truck, to be used primarily for snow plowing. The purchase is possible with the help of lower-than-anticipated medical insurance rates, coupled with a plan to spread some of the vehicle’s cost over county office rent.

According to County Commissioner Dan LaFoille, the price of the truck – approximately $30,000 – could be recouped, in part, from the county’s recent savings in medical insurance costs.

“Once we realized what are medical rates actually were, as opposed to what we budgeted, that just about covers the truck; the difference in savings,” he explained.

LaFoille had announced in October that the county would be budgeting for a 25 percent increase in the cost of employee medical insurance. In a recent meeting, County Clerk Dan McKinney noted that medical insurance rates had come in with an approximate 13.8 percent increase.

During Thursday’s meeting, LaFoille explained the county’s current truck had exceeded its lifespan, and that the purchase of a new truck, equipped with a plow, could allow the county to plow the Schoolcraft County Courthouse and Jail parking lots each winter.

The county recently received three bids for snowplowing the two parking lots, including one from Graphos Snowplowing in the amount of $3,000. Commissioner Craig Reiter noted that the price of the new truck would equate to approximately 10 years of outsourcing plowing, and questioned whether county employees would incur overtime while plowing the lots.

LaFoille explained it the Building and Grounds Department should be able to complete the task without overtime, adding they come in early regardless to clear sidewalks for other employees. He also addressed Commissioner George Ecclesine’s concerns about the department’s feelings about possibly inheriting an extra duty.

“They realize the benefit of having it, and being able to do it themselves,” he said. “Yeah, it’s another duty for them, but … they would be fine with that. Steve (Videtich, supervisor) has, I think, some reservations … but that’s the department head and worrying about getting the work done.”

In addition to plowing, LaFoille noted a new truck could fulfill some of the other needs of the county. Reiter questioned whether the truck could be used to also plow the Schoolcraft County Transit’s parking lot.

“I don’t think there’s anything to stop us from using the truck over there,” LaFoille said. “It’s just the personnel it would take to do that.”

McKinney explained the county could use the savings in medical insurance rates in conjunction with a rent increase to cover most of the truck’s cost.

“We can spread it out over the different cost centers for rent,” he said. “Part of it (the cost) would be recouped in rent over a period of time.”

Using prior year actual amounts, the county would calculate the new rent rates and implement them next year to recoup that percentage of the truck’s cost, McKinney explained.

LaFoille also mentioned the need to replace the county’s lawnmower/ snowblower, noting the equipment was getting “old” and “tired”. He noted a new snowblower would cost $5,113.

“When I look at that truck, that’s a pretty big chunk when I keep hearing that this fiscal year and cliff and all that, and now we’re looking at a $5,000 snowblower. Are we biting off a little too much to chew?” Ecclesine said. “Maybe this is something that, from the aspect of the truck, maybe it needs a little more thought, and take a look at what that cost is. Maybe look at this as something to consider next year … I’m not sold on the idea.”

According to LaFoille, the county could put off the decision to purchase the truck until more detailed information about how much could be recouped from rent rates was brought to the board. In the meantime, he explained the county would need to approach one of the three snowplow bidders and ask for a per-push charge as opposed to a season-long contract. This would allow the county to end the contract should they decide to purchase the truck, he added.

Ecclesine made the motion to ask Graphos Snowplowing to submit a per-push estimate and for McKinney to bring the board more information about the rent rates. LaFoille supported the motion, which passed unanimously.

“There’s no doubt that we could use,” Reiter said. “There’s wants and needs.”

The board also unanimously approved the purchase of the snowblower equipment.

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