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Facing $17,000 overage charge, county decides to rent backhoe for $10,500
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Feb. 8, 2010) — Faced with a choice between spending more than $17,000 for overage charges on a leased backhoe that Eastern District road crews used for more hours than agreed or spending $10,500 to rent a backhoe for one more year, Pulaski County Commissioners agreed Monday to pay $60,300 for a new Western District backhoe, transfer a lightly used backhoe from the Western District to the Eastern District, and pay the one-year rental fees for a second backhoe in the Eastern District.

All of the backhoes will be Caterpillar equipment sold or rented to the county by Benny Walker of Fabick, Inc. Western District Commissioner Rick Zweerink won’t be left with only one backhoe in his district; he plans to investigate purchasing a new John Deere backhoe from a different dealer.

Unlike some backhoes, the backhoes purchased for county road crews have special equipment including a “thumb” which is used to pick up and remove trees. Commissioners tried to find used equipment or less expensive equipment but were unable to do so.

The $60,300 sale price for the new Caterpillar backhoe includes a $300 power train warranty good for 1,000 hours or 12 months of use, whichever comes first, with a five-year purchase plan. The rented backhoe will be usable until Feb. 2011 for up to 550 hours.

“I don’t anticipate any problems with it, but this way we’ll take care of it if it does,” Walker told the commissioners. “This clears you on the overage there… we would like you to maintain it, and when it comes back, you’ll be responsible for any damage that has happened to it.”

“For $300, we’d be silly not to take the warranty,” said Presiding Commissioner Don McCulloch.

The three-way backhoe arrangement was the best that could be negotiated, according to Zweerink, to settle the lease agreement on the current backhoes which has run for three years.

“Is it perfect? Maybe not, but we had an un-perfect deal there,” Zweerink said. “We’re saving $7,000 and get to use the machine for a year only.”

Both Zweerink and Eastern District Commissioner Bill Farnham said they hated to make the backhoe purchase but said they have little choice. County road workers in both districts use the backhoes for many different duties including placing culverts, tree removal, and other types of road work; in the Eastern District which has many more hard-surfaced roads near Waynesville and St. Robert, the backhoes are also used extensively for filling potholes and doing asphalt repairs.

“This gives me two backhoes for this year, which I desperately need,” Farnham said.

The backhoe problem began when Fabick sales representatives informed the county commissioners that they’d be doubling the annual lease price to $10,500 per year; the county had previously been paying $5,000 per year to lease each backhoe. That placed county commissioners into immediate difficulty because they had to replace multiple pieces of expensive road equipment in a single year, and while one relatively lightly used Western District backhoe could be returned to Fabick without overage charges or repair charges, the $17,000 overage charge for the heavily used Eastern District backhoe, to which repair charges would have been added, would have left the county without enough money to replace the returned backhoe.

Zweerink said he hopes the lighter use of the western district backhoes will make it possible to stagger the purchase years for future backhoes to avoid a need to pay large amounts of money to purchase extra equipment in a single year.

“We tried everything we could think of… I ran it every way you could run it,” Zweerink said. “If I can make this thing last like I think I can, we will be able to buy one in a different year.”

Commissioners also reported Monday that they had numerous slide-offs late last week due to bad weather conditions.

“We had an ambulance up in Richland slide off into the ditch while trying to respond to a guy having a heart attack; they had to get chains and pull them out of the ditch. They had up to a foot of snow in some places up there,” Zweerink said.

Farnham said one of his road trucks slid into a ditch but was able to be pulled out without serious problems.

In other business, commissioners voted unanimously to reappoint Quentin Davis and Kerry Copeland, both of Dixon, to terms on the Senate Bill 40 board which will expire March 1, 2013. Both are currently members of a board which, in Pulaski County, helps supervise the funding for the Pulaski County Sheltered Workshop.

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