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Public works dept. to buy new, modern grader for $510K

City hall expects to receive the grader within six months of awarding the tender — just in time for winter.
Graders clear slush and snow from 50th Avenue.
An example of a grader.

The public works department plans to spend over half-a-million dollars to replace its 13-year-old John Deere grader with a new, high-tech machine that requires less maintenance and enhances safety.

During its May 23 regular meeting, city council authorized the department to issue a tender for the replacement of unit 141 — originally scheduled for replacement in 3.5 years — and budget the replacement at $510,000. 

Of this amount, $288,389 will come from depreciated savings, $215,200 from savings on equipment purchased this year and $6,411 from other savings.

City hall expects to receive the grader within six months of awarding the tender — just in time for winter.

The hydraulic system on the grader has failed, which is a problem since it operates most functions on the machine, explained Rod Montgomery, acting public works director. 

The initial repair quote was $95,734, but that is just to rip down the system, while staff are certain the cost will increase based on their experiences of fixing buses, he continued. 

Furthermore, fleet services staff are also confident that the municipality would be wasting money repairing the vehicle, which has more than 10,000 service hours; a typical grader is usually replaced around 12,500 hours.

While the City of Moose Jaw has four graders, public works could operate this summer with three units until the new unit arrives this winter, Montgomery said.

An alternative to purchasing new would be to lease another unit for $15,000 a month, which is why city administration recommended replacing the unit entirely.

A new motor grader would come with improved technology, such as GPS, automatic grading systems and advanced hydraulic systems, his report said. These features make the machine more efficient, precise and productive than older models.

New graders are also equipped with the latest safety features, such as backup cameras, collision avoidance systems and improved visibility, which enhance safety for the operator and other workers on the job site, the document added.

Council discussion

“We have to have graders … ,” said Coun. Crystal Froese. “It is nice to see that we’ve saved some money. That’s some pretty significant savings of $215,000, which is wonderful to hear.”

Froese then wondered how the department had acquired those savings.

Perry Lanneville, fleet services supervisor, explained that the department has replaced 12 light utility vehicles this year. Instead of tendering the complete vehicle to one company, he has spread out the tenders so one company builds the body and another builds the chassis. This has allowed him to save “a fair bit of money.”

Coun. Doug Blanc said he has driven past Brandt Industries in Regina several times and seen numerous graders on the lot. He wondered why city hall didn’t purchase one of those. 

Lanneville replied that most times, other companies or municipalities have already purchased those machines and are sitting there for delivery or pickup.

This grader has averaged 769 hours per year during the last 13 years, Blanc said, with Lanneville acknowledging that the average is 700 to 900 hours per annum.

Blanc also expressed concern about waiting until the fall for the machine because of increased costs. Lanneville replied that increased costs are a regular occurrence in the industry. He noted that the city paid $185,000 for a new transit bus some time ago, while a new one is now $235,000. 

“It’s just astronomical how much these prices are increasing,” he said, adding the department would sell the old grader at a public auction and recoup some money.

Coun. Dawn Luhning noted that much of the public works’ equipment is old and outdated. She wondered why the department didn’t just lease gear instead of purchasing it, especially considering the new grader’s cost. 

The finance department has periodically conducted analyses on leasing versus buying, but one thing the municipality benefits from is being able to self-finance purchases at low costs, explained finance director Brian Acker. While there have been “very rare” occasions to lease equipment, the city has purchased most items at lower expenses. 

The next regular council meeting is Monday, June 12.

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