The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors last week approved more than $800,000 to add a third culvert crew to its workforce.
At the Wednesday, Nov. 20 meeting, ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson pointed out that the district has several hundred culverts that are either outdated or close to the end of their life expectancy.
Recently, the district made a policy to use in-house staff rather than contractors to install new culverts. There are currently two culvert crews, with the second having been added just over a year ago.
“We do have the appropriate budgeting to do this,” Hanson said. “We will be coming back at a later date with the approval for the equipment. Tonight, it’s just moving forward with creating the third culvert crew. Staff tried to be as accurate as possible with what the costs would be, which comes to $810,408 for fiscal year 2020.”
He pointed out that the cost is at 75 percent of the annual cost because the crew would not be operational until the second quarter of the year.
“We will be able to cover that moving into the future. That’s something this board made a decision on a few years ago, to continue to expand the capital projects, especially the culvert crews, so we’re just moving in line with what the board has requested,” he said.
The estimated cost includes $525,500 for equipment, $186,170 for personnel salaries, $93,085 for benefits, $5,653 for uniforms and $912 for cell phones.
The cost does not include materials such as culverts and road rock.
ITID President Betty Argue asked if staff had evaluated leasing equipment rather than buying, and Hanson said that the district currently has the money available to purchase the equipment, which includes an excavator, loader and pump, but he would look into leasing options.
“That’s quite a pot of money, and that means that next year we might wind up being short, so we want to try to offset that,” Argue said.
Hanson said the cost would be similar to the costs of the previous crews because they are outfitted exactly the same. “The only difference might be that because they have been here longer, they might have a slightly higher salary,” he said.
Supervisor Tim Sayre, who was attending by telephone, asked Hanson to look into the option of borrowing money for the equipment over five years since interest rates are currently low.
“I know we have the money to purchase it outright, but it might not make sense with interest rates as low as they are now,” Sayre said.
Supervisor Jennifer Hager made a motion to approve the addition of a third crew, which carried 5-0.
Hanson added that the culvert crew would remain under the Operations & Maintenance Department and asked that department director Jason Lester’s salary be increased by 6.4 percent.
“His current salary is $89,300,” Hanson said. “The recommendation is $95,000. It’s still below the midpoint, which is $101,639. This is a justifiable and necessary action to retain and maintain stability in the department and the district.”
Argue said she was hesitant to give the department director a raise in light of the board having designated former District Manager Rob Robinson as director of special projects recently when Hanson was hired.
“Technically, it’s supposed to be Rob who’s managing that,” she said. “I know we have not made that organizational change yet. I used that to justify to the board that the creation of the executive assistant would pay for itself in the project management and the additional crews that we have been creating, and also giving him a raise at that time.”
Hanson said he agreed with Argue, but in light of recent administrative resignations, he wanted to make sure he keeps valuable personnel.
“The operations and maintenance director is very young and very valuable and very marketable, and I do not think the district wants to lose another director, especially one of his caliber, because he has the potential to grow here,” he said, adding that there are other capital projects in the works that will need to be addressed. “You have the Moss pilot project. There’s a lot of things going on outside of just the culvert replacement. I’m laying the foundation for the future of the district, not just for the next 12 months or even 24 months.”
Argue said she would support the 6.4 percent increase as long as he does not get any other increases over the next year.
Hanson said he wanted to make sure that he keeps personnel that he considers essential to the effective operation of the district.
“I just want to make sure that I get him to a level where we don’t have to worry about him being poached by another district or by the private sector, even another city,” he said. “He has a certain skill set and dedication that in today’s workforce is very valuable.”