The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of two pieces of heavy equipment last week at a total cost of $388,550 to outfit the district’s third culvert replacement crew that was approved last year.
The board has set the replacement of culverts as a high priority because several hundred culverts are outdated or close to the end of their life expectancy, hampering the district’s drainage abilities in many neighborhoods.
ITID has made a policy to use in-house staff rather than contractors to install new culverts, adding a third culvert crew in November.
At the Wednesday, Jan. 22 meeting, Operations & Maintenance Director Rob Robinson said he had looked at several different brands of machinery.
“Speaking with the lead mechanic, his recommendation is to go with one brand of machine and stick with it,” Robinson said. “We haven’t had very good luck with the Volvo equipment. We’ve got two brand-new ones out there. They’re having some technical issues, including parts availability and customer service. They’ve really been subpar.”
He also had some concerns with machines from John Deere.
“We do have two John Deeres, one that was purchased not long ago,” Robinson said. “It has been a very good machine, and we also had the board approve the mini excavator for purchase. That one is being built right now. Those have been pretty good, but we’ve had some issues with motor graders with some turbos and some turntables.”
The district has two older Caterpillar machines, a 1996 motor grader with 25,000 hours of use that performed well until recently when it developed some transmission issues, and a Cat loader that has done well.
“We are going with all-new Caterpillar motor graders, because of the longevity with them, parts availability, as well as the software backups when we’re trying to troubleshoot,” Robinson said. “John Deere has a proprietary software system that they really don’t like giving out because it gets copied and hacked, and people start their own equipment-fixing business, and John Deere wants to be in that business. Caterpillar is much more liberal with their software and their codes, and that’s why I’m bringing this recommendation before you tonight to go with the Caterpillars for the two heavy pieces of machinery.”
The quotes were obtained in a piggyback from a Florida Sheriff’s Association contract for a Caterpillar wheel loader at a cost of $167,100 and a Caterpillar hydraulic excavator at $221,450.
Robinson said the wheel loader is fully outfitted with extra counterweights and forks needed to assist the culvert crew in moving materials around. The excavator is also equipped with zero counterweights to help get in tight places, such as around fences where there is limited easement. He said the machines are available and ready to go. Although they have some unnecessary equipment for ITID’s purposes, a significant discount given by the manufacturer merits their purchase.
Robinson added that lease agreements are available, but the overall cost is more, and the Cats are now available with steering wheels as well as lever control, which makes them more maneuverable.
ITID President Betty Argue asked if approval of the new machines will bring all three culvert crews up to operating strength, and Robinson said the district currently has two medium-size Volvo excavators and has been renting one, and has a smaller John Deere that was approved three months ago and is being built.
“It’s easier to sit on the side of the road, but we still have a reach, and it’s out of traffic,” Robinson said. “They fight over the one now, and we’ve been renting one.”
Argue said that if ITID is renting one machine, the board should consider buying one.
“If we’re having a demand of renting something on an ongoing basis, perhaps we need to look at other options,” she said. “I know we’ve got one on order, but is that going to be enough?”
Robinson said the machine on order is to replace an aging wheeled backhoe that is in the fleet.
“We’ll take another look at it and come back to the board if there is a recommendation to adjust that,” he said.
Supervisor Jennifer Hager made a motion to approve the purchase of the wheel loader and excavator, which carried 5-0.
The board also approved the purchase of a Bobcat track loader at a cost of $70,496.86 that was included in the budget for the fiscal year.
“You just spoke of the need for additional machines because we’re renting one,” Robinson said. “We have one that we have been renting for the last several months. That will be going back once we take delivery of this. This is a large compact track loader, which will replace an older rubber tire [loader] in the fleet. It’s equipped with an enclosed cabinet and is compatible with all existing district-owned attachments. It’s suitable for fitting along tight spots along the canal banks and has auxiliary hydraulics to aid in doing asphalt cutting and clearing easements.”
Robinson explained that the older machine will be retired and declared surplus at some point, adding that the new machine is ready to ship.
Hager made a motion to approve the purchase of the track loader, which also carried 5-0.