Ancram plans to kick all 10 tires

ANCRAM—Trucks, big ones, are what keep highway crews rolling, but when one of these rigs hits the skids it’s probably time for a replacement, and big trucks mean big bucks.

Town Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur told the Town Board last month the time has come to purchase a new truck, so Supervisor Art Bassin told him to look around and let the board know what kind of money they are talking about.

At the January 15 Town Board meeting, Mr. MacArthur came back with two price tags, both for 2015 10-wheelers outfitted with plows, sanders and dump bodies. An International from Ben Funk will run the town $209,173 and a Mack from Beam Mack in East Syracuse will lighten the coffers by $208,233.50.

Through a lease/purchase agreement with a bank or through the dealer at around a 3% interest rate either truck would cost the town between $40,000 and $50,000/year for 5 or 6 years. The town could pay a down payment of $50,000 and lower the purchase price or issue a bond for the purchase and possibly get a better rate, Mr. MacArthur said.

If the new truck requires repair, the International would only have to travel out to Greenport, but the Mack would have to go to Albany, said Mr. MacArthur, who expressed a preference for the Mack, noting “a lot of towns are buying Macks, it’s a better built truck.”

The new truck conversation started because the town’s 1994 truck went in for a routine inspection and has so far racked up about a $6,000 repair bill. Mr. MacArthur said he will try to sell that truck and “maybe get $10,000 for it.”

Another truck had to be taken in for an emergency procedure because it was hemorrhaging oil. The highway chief estimated a repair bill on it of $7,000 or $8,000.

The Ancram highway fleet has five trucks in all, the newest one a 2006. Mr. MacArthur said he keeps one truck around as a spare, a 2000, to use when a truck breaks down. He said a town plow truck is a 20-year investment and a 10-wheeler is needed for the job, “6-wheelers just can’t take the beating, especially in the wintertime.”

Around the time the town gets a new truck paid off, if it buys one, another truck, the 2000, will need to be replaced. If all town trucks are scheduled for replacement or give out at five-year intervals then Mr. Bassin noted that the town could be paying $40,000 to $50,000 on a lease/purchase “forever.”

He also observed that with regular truck replacement, the highway department’s annual $100,000 allocation for repairs should go down.

Noting that the town has flexibility on the matter, Mr. Bassin said, “It’s not like we don’t have the money.” In his monthly financial report the supervisor said the town will have $700,000 in cash on hand by the end of January.

The town’s truck replacement strategy has been to try to save money by buying good used trucks. But such specimens are rare and Mr. MacArthur said in a follow-up phone call that the used trucks the town has purchased in the past didn’t turn out to be as good as he thought they would be. “Sooner or later you’ve got to update,” he said.

A new truck ordered now would not arrive until the fall and would have to be part of the 2016 budget.

Councilman Chris Thomas said the cost of new highway truck is “25% of the yearly highway budget, that’s a lot of money.” He said he would not agree to the purchase of a new truck “unless we put it out to the public.”

Councilwoman Madeleine Israel asked what would happen if the town did not buy a new truck: “Would we keep going with what we’ve got or keep buying used and hope for the best? I think we should buy a new truck.”

Resident Mike Citrin asked if there were any “demo” trucks available in the country and if Ancram would be able to find out about them.

“You can’t just buy a demo, you have to bid it, if you can find it,” said Mr. MacArthur.

Mr. Bassin asked Mr. MacArthur to attend the next meeting of the town’s Financial Advisory Council at which members would go over the numbers. “It’s always a challenge to put together a budget that meets the needs and keeps taxes flat,” said the supervisor.

In other highway news, in his annual “284 agreement” with the town, Mr. MacArthur proposed paving 1,000 feet of Under Mountain Road and all of Altenburg Road, which is about 800 feet in length. During the meeting, amid complaints from Donna Hoyt about the condition of town dirt roads, Mr. MacArthur had said he doesn’t like to invest his limited funds in paving dirt roads, “because then the paved roads will fall apart.”

But in the case of Altenburg Road, he said in a subsequent phone call, that the road, on the Dutchess County line, is such a long distance away from the highway garage that it causes much wear and tear on road equipment such as the town’s grader just to get over there when it needs attention.

In her report on the sale of dog licenses for December, Town Clerk Monica Cleveland said that she only needs to sell 33,000 more of them and she would be able to buy Mr. MacArthur that truck.

To contact Diane Valden email

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