Shelter Island could be on the road to upgrading its Highway Department Equipment to the tune of $1.54 million in the year ahead. The plan appeared to meet with no resistance from the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session because the actual increase to the budget per year would amount to $2,301.
Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. told the board the plan is to replace expiring indebtedness with ongoing funding, state grant money and income the new equipment will be able to generate.
The proposal, due to be discussed by the board at next week’s work session, would enable the purchase of three new snow plow trucks and sanders, a “brush grinder” and an excavator with a trailer.
For each piece of equipment, Mr. Card made his case for the capital expenditures, starting with the three new plows and sanders. Every truck the town currently owns is at least 11 years old and one is 18 years old. Parts for the aged trucks are difficult to find and expensive when they can be purchased, he said.
Because they have spent much of their lives “submerged” in salt, they are “rusting from the inside” and it’s likely they wouldn’t pass New York State inspections in the near future, he said.
Nonetheless, if sold now, each of three older trucks could still be sold for between $20,000 and $25,000. That money would be filtered into the highway reserve account to offset future payments, Mr. Card said.
New trucks are estimated to cost $470,600 on a five-year leave with a $1 purchase at the end of the lease. The town has been paying $47,700 for a sweeper and those payments end in 2018, making it possible to replace them with a $50,000 financing for the new trucks.
The new trucks would not only be safer for operators, but would have a longer life because their stainless steel would provide higher salt resistance than the older truck material.
If the Town Board approves the plan, the Highway Department would have five plows to deploy.
While residents might complain about taxes, they would be more upset if they couldn’t get out of their driveways after a snowstorm, Councilwoman Chris Lewis said. Reliability tops the list, she said.
As for the brush grinder, Mr. Card said the town has been spending $100,000 a year to companies to grind material. The companies haven’t always been available to do the job when needed and that has limited the amount of ground material the town could sell to generate revenue. He estimated that every $15,000 of expense to do the grinding inhouse with a town-owned machine could generate $164,000 in material it could sell.
The estimated cost of the grinder is $695,000 plus $80,130 in interest payments.
Half of the cost of the grinder would come from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and while it could take five years to recover that money, the town would be generating income from selling ground material each year.
Mr. Card also proposed establishing a grinder reserve account with unused annual repair expenses returned to that account so when the town next needed a new grinder, the money would already be in hand.
The excavator would cost $250,000 with interest, but could be paid out of the department’s capital reserve fund, Mr. Card said.
Mr. Card is working on the draft plan to shore up Reel Point and is trying to determine how much of a multi-million job might be able to be done inhouse instead of hiring a construction firm to do the work.
While he’s not ready to put a number to the savings the town could experience at Reel Point, he acknowledged the new excavator would be critical to that project.
“I’ve been labeled a spender, but I’m really a saver,” Mr. Card told the Reporter prior to the work session about his proposal for new equipment. “This is a move to stabilize the budget,” he said.