Harris considering options on road grader

Now that the snow is gone for a while — hopefully — the road maintenance focus in Harris has shifted from snow removal to grading.

The city has a grader, but it’s old and in need of repairs.

It was manufactured in 1976 and purchased by the city approximately 20 years ago.

The question before the council May 12 was: Should the city purchase a new grader or perform costly repairs, or should it contract with a company for road grading and snow removal?

The present grader requires a minimum of approximately $22,500 of repairs to continue working property, according to estimates from the city.

The total estimated cost to keep the grader running over the next few years would be around $65,000. In its current state, the grader is worth approximately $20,000. After all of the repairs are made to the grader, the value would remain at $20,000, the city said.

The city is looking at a Ziegler CAT grader, which is set up with a wing for snow plowing. The purchase price on this grader is $119,000. Ziegler would take the old grader in on trade, giving the city the $20,000 value. Ziegler has a finance option through CAT Financial consisting of five annual payments of $21,719. The interest rate would be 2.95 percent. The Ziegler representative who attended the council meeting pointed out that after five years, depending on how many hours the city puts on this grader, the estimated value would be $98,000.

There is a lease option, but on new graders only. The lease would be $22,000 annually over five years. The council came to consensus that this was a feasible option.

The other option was to contract out the grading and snowplowing. At one point a few years ago when contracting out more of the city services was considered, the research had shown that the city could contract the road grading for $75 per hour and $82 for snowplowing. Because of the increase of fuel and costs, it was estimated that the hourly rate would now be closer to $95 or more per hour. Some of the concerns about contracting out the grading and snowplowing was reliability of service.

The Ziegler representative said the operating cost of the purchase option would be about $28,000 over the next five years. Other factors besides price were reviewed. The CAT dealer is close and could provide repair and maintenance parts quickly. If a John Deere commercial grader were purchased, repair and parts would be hours away from where the commercial John Deere dealers are located. The local agricultural dealers would neither stock the parts for the grader nor do maintenance on it.

Harris Public Works part-time employee Jason Zastera said he will use whatever equipment the city supplies to him.

“If the city buys a grader, I will run it,” he said. “I will use the equipment the city has to get the job done.”

After much discussion, it was decided that before the council could make a decision on a purchase, more research needed to be done. There are two local contractors that grade roads for other townships and municipalities. The council said each will be contacted concerning the costs and contract requirements.

Mayor Diane Miller said that the council would review the information acquired and “do the best we can with the information we have.”

The information on the comparison between keeping and repairing the present grader, contracting grading and snowplowing to a private contractor, and purchasing a used grader to replace the present one will be presented at the June 9 meeting.  Residents interested in participating in the discussion should attend.

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