The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors got its first look at the proposed budget for fiscal year 2019-20 on Wednesday, March 27.
The budget will attempt to hold the line on assessment increases while adding a second culvert replacement crew.
District Manager Rob Robinson said he was going into the process a month earlier this year in order to give supervisors more time to consider it, as he and Finance Director Bruce Cuningham were relatively new last year.
“We wanted to get more board direction at the beginning and give us another month to prepare a proper budget that will be acceptable to the board, to incorporate direction as well as recommendations from our professional associates and our staff,” Robinson said.
He supplied a copy of the two previous budgets for comparison.
“The goal is to keep the assessment and current budget at its current level,” Robinson said. “I’ve directed staff to ‘use it or lose it.’ We don’t intend to add anything, only subtract with the intention of the board making any corrections or recommendations or directions.”
In his executive summary, Robinson said infrastructure replacement includes culvert replacement, which proposes a second crew to expedite the process.
“While the theory was well intended, the application will take twice as long with current staffing and equipment inventory,” Robinson said. “The preliminary numbers will take us to the year 2053 to complete a 100 percent replacement… To meet the goal of your 20-year replacement plan, we are going to need to double down on our current replacement package.”
Robinson said he has been able to create a second crew with the possible addition of one staff member by converting a pipe replacement crew and replacing rubber tire excavators with track excavators.
During the past year, district staff has engaged in an intensive effort to grade swales to insure positive drainage to the canals during storms.
“Proper swales enhance storage capacity and provide a faster way of removing storm water during rain events,” Robinson said.
Canal improvements have also been an important part of the district’s drainage improvement plan by clearing canal easements so staff can effectively remove debris and inspect waterways, Robinson said.
The new budget proposes replacing certain equipment, including several excavators and backhoes, two F-250 pickup trucks with more than 250,000 miles, a motor grader and two boom mowers, but not add to it, explaining that the old equipment scheduled for replacement is prone to breakage and is very high maintenance.
The motor grader scheduled for replacement is the oldest in the fleet and has logged more than 18,000 hours, Robinson said.
The last mini-excavator the district purchased was $58,000, the skid-steer will be about $35,000 to $40,000, the pickup trucks will be about $45,000 each and the boom mowers are $110,000. The last motor grader the district purchased cost approximately $220,000.
ITID President Betty Argue asked what the advantage was of using the new tracked mini-excavator over the rubber tire excavators in the fleet, and Robinson said the new mini-excavator is more efficient and moves projects along faster because it does not have to use boom extensions.
“I want to know that when we are replacing something it is because we really have to, not because we desire to,” Argue said.
Argue noted that she has asked for records that show an increase in maintenance of the older equipment.
“Can you show that to us and how the maintenance costs are increasing?” Argue asked. “We don’t have any of those facts in front of us.”
Argue also suggested that a new motor grader be purchased but to consider keeping the old one as a backup and for doing work orders if it can be relied on. Robinson said he would look into it if he could find another operator.
“Motor grader operators are kind of like hens’ teeth right now,” Robinson said.
Argue suggested cross-training existing staff to operate the motor grader, but Robinson said he did not see the need for an additional grader or cross-training staff.
“That’s my personal thoughts,” Robinson said. “If I’m directed otherwise, then that will be the case.”
Robinson added that one of the excavator machines that had fallen into a canal and had been restored continues to have problems.
“It’ll run fine for a couple of months, and then it’ll go down for several weeks, and it seems to be when we’re right in the middle of something,” Robinson said, explaining that there are issues with the fueling system, as well as some of the computer wiring harness system, which is hard to trace.
Robinson suggested that the old restored excavator might be fitted for a forestry attachment.
“The machine is pretty old, and it shows it,” Robinson said. “One of the most dangerous jobs to do on a machine is to have a forestry attachment,” he said. “It could be possible to repurpose the machine. We could use it strictly for cutbacks on canal bank reclamations. We are definitely going to need an increase in canal bank reclamation.”
Argue asked about the status of the long-arm mowers, and Robinson said they are used intensely.
“It is very tough on those components,” Robinson said. “We’re seeing a lot of breakages in gearboxes and also structural frame damage or stress cracking.”
Argue added that she is concerned about converting one of the existing pipe crews to a culvert replacement crew.
“We definitely need to create another crew this year for this project,” Argue said. “We need to figure out how to do it with as minimal impact as possible on the budget.”
Other projects proposed are improvements and rebuilding at pump stations, including pump overhauls, upgraded telemetry, engine and submersible pump rebuilds, replacement of exhaust fans, restoration of grass carp and continuation of the aquatic chemical program.
The budget also earmarks funds for the park facilities. The presentation included a proposed barn roof replacement at Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park, siding replacement at Hamlin House, new Sycamore Park playground equipment and basketball court resurfacing, small roofing repairs at park restrooms and the replacement of a clay surfacing machine for the baseball fields.
The budget also proposes a 3 percent wage increase for selected employees.