Johnstown Town Board OKs $131k plow truck purchase


From left, Johnstown Town Board member Tim Rizzo scrutinizes town policies and spending items during Monday’s Town Board meeting while newly elected board member Paul Catucci listens.

The Johnstown Town Board voted unanimously Monday night to purchase a new dual-use plow/dump truck for $131,896, after deciding to table the purchase of a $95,000 Viking-Cives plow to go with it.

The Town Board discussed the purchase with Town Highway Superintendent Jack Smullen, who had previously brought the purchase idea to the Board in September of 2021, but the Board chose to table the issue at that time.

Smullen said his original plan had been to purchase the new dual-use plow/dump truck in September in the hope of having it delivered to the town by March or April, but now he’s being told delays in the amount of time it would take to get the truck will likely push its delivery to January 2023. He said his five-year plan to replace vehicles also calls for the purchase of another plow truck by 2024.

The price figures used during the Board’s discussion were from a bidding process completed prior to September 2021, and Smullen seemed uncertain whether the prices would remain the same, including a complex series of discounts that reduced a combined cost of cab and chassis plus new Viking-Cives plow, plus installation cost, from nearly $300,000 down to $131,896 for the cab and chassis and about $95,000 for the new plow plus installation.

Town Attorney Leah Everhart did not attend Monday’s meeting.

Deputy Supervisor Christina VanValkenburgh said when the International Truck salesperson came to discuss the truck purchase with the Board in September, she believed the complexity of the pricing led the Board to table the issue.

“I think that was the problem when he came to present it, we couldn’t get to a dollar amount figure, because he couldn’t even figure this out,” she said.

Smullen said International Truck was the low-bidder and another manufacturer Called Freightliner Trucks would charge $164,000 for the cab and chassis. He argued the Board should act now before the price goes up.

“The thing of it is, we’ve got a move because actually right now, the cost of that truck, just for the Viking stuff went up almost $16,000 from when you turned it down before to now, and the price of the truck went up about $3,000,” he said. “We’ve got to get going on this, so we can get this truck ordered, and it can be delivered.”

Smullen said he intends to “retire” one of the town’s five current plow trucks, keeping it as a spare truck after the new purchase, and completely retire one of the town’s dump trucks to take advantage of the new truck’s dual-use capabilities. He said the Board should be prepared for the costs of more equipment replacement in order to ensure the town has the proper equipment to keep its roads plowed.
“And the sad part of it is, we’re almost going to have to order a new truck next November to get one for ’24,” he said. “Because originally, my five-year plan was in ’22 to get a plow truck and in ’24 to get a plow truck, with a two-year span between them, so now you’re going to be looking at trying to replace a truck with a delivery date of ’23 and a delivery date of ’24.”

Town Board member Tim Rizzo asked Smullen about the delay in delivery of the new truck.

“Why are they telling you it takes a year to get the truck?” Rizzo asked.

“Just because of how the production is,” Smullen said.

Then Rizzo switched gears to asking whether the town could find a less expensive way to complete the truck with used plowing equipment the town already owns.

“What’s the issue of using the old Viking-plow with the new blades, besides the headgear,” Rizzo asked.

“Who’s going to install it?” Smullen said.

“Why can’t they install the headgear and pumps, and you just tie your plows to it?” said Rizzo. “They don’t change your framing.”

“You’ve still got to take a truck …” Smullen said.

“I understand taking the truck, but I’m saying can we save money if we use the old plows? The wing plows, the steel?” Rizzo asked.

New Town Board member Joel Wilson, who was appointed as the official Town Board liaison to the Highway Department at the town’s organizational meeting, then interjected into the discussion about attempting to install a used plow onto the new truck.

“I’ll tell you what, just to try to move things along, if we were just to concentrate, I think we all agree there’s issues with the production on the cabs and chassis, so if we can look into that, we can try to get beyond the cab and chassis and get that step out of the way,” Joel Wilson said. “Viking don’t care what they hook up. They charge the same price for International, Freightliner or Mack or whatever, so that price will not change, so we can see what the savings would be (from using a used plow the town already owns) to see if it would be worth it. Jack — and I probably should have asked you this before tonight — but do you have spare head head plows and wings?”

“You’re talking about the trucks we’re going to retire? That’s a 20-year-old plow, stuff is bent!” Smullen said.

“OK, but what I’m saying is the next time we retire a truck, we’ll look at it to have the spare, so if you bend something up, you’ve got one behind the shop,” Joel Wilson said.

Incredulous, Smullen said he thinks it makes no sense to pay to install a used plow onto a new vehicle, and he doubts the savings would be more than $10,000, because he doesn’t know what Viking-Cives would charge for the installation of a used plow.

But Board member Joel Wilson said it would be prudent to break up the purchase and table the new plow portion at least until next month.

“I think we need to do that, yes,” Supervisor Jack Wilson said.

“But I still think we’re coming back because when that truck goes, we’re going to have a truck that has no head plow and wings,” Smullen warned.

After the meeting Rizzo said he ultimately decided to support the spending on the new truck because he believes Smullen has committed to reducing the town’s overall vehicle fleet by three, but Smullen said he only wants to reduce it by two, and still keep one old plow truck available, with its insurance up to date, as a spare vehicle.

By Jason Subik

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