Copake does math: 1 tank’s cheaper than 2

COPAKE — Instead of replacing both failed fuel tanks at the Town Highway Garage, the Town Board has decided to replace just one.

The decision came at a special meeting September 16, when the board reviewed and awarded fuel tank-related bids.

The cost for one tank is about $56,000 rather than $100,000 the board feared it would have to spend to replace both. And the budget seems to offer some options that would allow the board to pay for the single tank without borrowing.

The town’s 1,000-gallon gasoline tank and its 2,000-gallon diesel tank, both double-walled and buried underground, failed precision tank tests last May.

Gasoline leaked into the space between the inside and outside walls of that tank and water leaked through the outer wall in the diesel tank. No fuel leaked into the environment in either case.

State Department of Environmental Conservation regulations required that once the tanks were found to be compromised, they had to be dug up within 24 hours and emptied of the fuel they contained. Two temporary above-ground tanks, one for gas, the other for diesel, both with a 1,000-gallon capacity, were subsequently rented.

The tanks at the highway garage supply not only Highway Department vehicles with fuel, but also vehicles belonging to the Community Rescue Squad, the Copake Police Department, the Copake and Craryville fire departments and the town’s car, which is used by any town official for travel on town business.

Copake Highway Superintendent Bill Gregory found that refilling the temporary smaller-capacity diesel tank on a two-week fuel delivery schedule was barely enough to keep all the vehicles running.

Back in July, officials estimated that replacing both tanks and associated equipment would cost the town about $100,000. That, coupled with a nearly $20,000 shortfall in the amount budgeted for the town’s health/dental insurance, had the board scrambling to figure out how to pay for it all. When the town found itself in a similar deficit situation in mid-2009, it took out a $100,000 loan to cover expenses. Nobody wanted a repeat of that maneuver this year.

The town sought bids for three variations of petroleum-related equipment: replacement of both tanks and pumps; replacement of just the diesel tank and pump; and the lease of both tanks and pumps.

According to Highway Superintendent Gregory, four bids each were received for both the replacement of diesel and gas tanks and the diesel tank alone. One bid was received for the lease of equipment.

The bids for replacement of both gas and diesel tanks and equipment ranged from $82,795 to $103,720. For the diesel tank and equipment alone, the bids ranged from $56,695 to $63,000.

After learning that the Highway Department’s primary need is for diesel fuel and just one town pick-up runs on gas, the board voted unanimously to replace the diesel tank and equipment only. Councilman Walt Kiernan was absent.

The contract for the job was awarded to Conklin Services and Construction of Newburgh, which submitted a bid of $57,602. But because the town had rented the temporary fuel tanks from Conklin, the $1,400 rental fee was refunded, making the cost to the town $56,202, lower than the lowest bid of $56,695 from American Petroleum Equipment.

“It was a cash flow issue,” Councilman Bob Sacks told The Columbia Paper this week. “The Highway Department does not use that much gasoline, nor does the fire department or the rescue squad.”

Noting that he was not speaking for the whole board, Mr. Sacks said, “the consensus was that if we need the gas tank at a later date, we’ll replace it when it makes more economic sense.”

The lack of a gas tank at the highway garage may not impact the fire departments or the rescue squad, but it does leave the town’s police department without a place to gas up its patrol vehicles.

According to Deputy Supervisor/Budget Officer Joe LaPorta, the plan is to get a credit card for the police, so they can buy gas locally, and when the bill comes in, it will be paid out of the police department budget. Mr. LaPorta said that because the Police Department is a non-profit agency, the gasoline tax would be refunded. He also said a credit card will be assigned for use when fueling up the town’s car, which uses usually less than 20 gallons a week, and that the town may qualify for a municipal discount. The bill for gasoline for the town car would be paid out of the budget’s general fund, he said.

Exactly where in the budget the town will find the money to pay for the new above-ground double-walled diesel tank, which includes a new fuel pump, a new fuel monitoring system for tracking fuel usage, associated software and concrete work, is not yet clear.

Half the cost could be paid out of the unexpended balance this year and the other half accounted for in next year’s spending plan, said Mr. LaPorta, noting the town would not be borrowing any money.

Councilman Sacks agreed: “We may grab some from here and some from there, but we will not borrow the money.”

Mr. Gregory said while the steel tank is being fabricated, which will take three to four weeks, the prep work will be completed at the garage, so the new tank should be in place by the end of October.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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