Used snowplow ordered by Steamboat Springs City Council is experiencing breakdowns | SteamboatToday.com

Used snowplow ordered by Steamboat Springs City Council is experiencing breakdowns

Scott Franz

A road grader clears snow from a street in west Steamboat Springs on Wednesday.

— The Steamboat Springs City Council learned this week its decision to buck a city staff recommendation and buy used snowplowing equipment instead of new vehicles has likely not come without some initial consequences.

One of the used road graders the city purchased late last year has broken down twice this winter season and had to sit out one snowstorm.

The mechanical failures resulted in a day of narrower streets on some plow routes and forced city staff to shift driving schedules to compensate.

One of the mechanical failures could not be fixed in-house and required the equipment to go back to a dealership.

The breakdowns also came during a year the city shifted its snowplowing operations to rely more on the graders.

City staff had up to $690,000 saved up in its fleet replacement fund to buy new snow-plowing equipment.

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Leaders of the city’s public works department, and one council member, wanted to purchase two new graders as opposed to used ones. They argued that, although the new graders cost more to purchase, they come with warranties and ultimately cost less to maintain in the long haul.

But a majority of council decided it would be best to purchase used graders at a cost of up to $450,000 instead.

Councilman Tony Connell compared the city's desire to purchase new graders to purchasing Mercedes or chasing shiny toys.

Some council members appeared peeved this week when the city reported the breakdowns of the used road graders in a report from City Manager Gary Suiter.

"I think this is so biased, personally," Councilwoman Heather Sloop said of the city noting the breakdowns of the used equipment.

Connell suggested the city was trying to make a point that it should only have to buy new equipment.

Public Works Director Chuck Anderson and City Manager Gary Suiter defended the city's decision to tell council about the mechanical malfunctions.

Anderson said the city has not had any issues with its other graders, and Suiter noted the city recently invested a significant amount of money in the used graders.

"I thought it was something you would want to hear," Suiter said. "We paid $450,000 for these (two used road graders), and they're already breaking down. I thought you should know."

Connell wanted the city to present a spreadsheet about the availability of its other equipment.

The council also asked about the cost associated with fixing the used grader, a figure that wasn't available on Tuesday.

Asked Wednesday if the city would expect such mechanical failures in new equipment, Streets Superintendent David Van Winkle said “no.”

He said while the failure of the used grader did have an impact, the city was able to adapt and the overall impact wasn't too significant.

Van Winkle said the city has received several compliments on the new snowplowing system that relies more on the graders.

The changes were made to improve driver safety and also the quality of the snow-removal operations.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10