Excavator digs hole in town budget

Sackville’s John Deere 2010 wheeled excavator with broken front axle

Sackville municipal officials have been scratching their heads over what to do about one of the town’s most heavily used pieces of equipment, a $300,000 excavator with a front axle that split wide open around the end of November.

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton told councillors last night that a crack had appeared in the axle’s main housing a few months earlier.

“We were able to weld it once and then it split again,” he said. “We welded it a second time and got more months out of it.”

But a third welding job failed to hold.

“It literally let go and split wide open, beyond repairs.”

Unexpected failure

Acton said the 2010 machine should last for 10 years and therefore, there’s no money in this year’s budget to replace it.

And, spending $300,000 on a new excavator could mean putting off capital projects such as reconstructing a 300-metre section of Main Street from Dufferin to Queens Road. (The town has applied for provincial funding that would cover nearly half of the project’s $850,000 cost.)

In the end, Acton and Treasurer Michael Beal are recommending that, at its meeting next Monday, council approve spending $63,250 on a new, replacement axle.

“There was one axle in all of North America that would fit our machine and it’s in Mississippi,” Acton said, adding that they could find only two used excavators on the continent that matched the make and model of Sackville’s.

“We said, ‘well maybe we can get a used axle off of another machine for this one.’ Well, the one was $95,000 to buy the used piece of equipment, $95,000 U.S….the other one was $120,000 and it was out west.”

He and Beal considered renting an excavator but that would cost $7,000 to $9,000 a month, a hefty expenditure considering that the machine is used for up to eight months every year.

They also decided that contracting out digging jobs would be even more expensive.

A hole in the budget

Treasurer Michael Beal

Treasurer Beal said he’s not sure yet where the money for a replacement axle would come from. He suggested that the town could dip into the $80,000 it’s planning to transfer this year to a long-term reserve fund that will eventually pay for upgrading its sewage lagoons.

He added that there might be savings on other capital projects, although it’s too early to tell.

In the long term, he said, it’s better for the town to replace the excavator axle now and recover some of the money when the machine is traded in or auctioned off.

“If we sell this at auction in two to three years, we may reap back $25 to $50 to $75 thousand,” Beal said, “that we could then put back into the reserve fund, if we have to do that.”

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2 Responses to Excavator digs hole in town budget

  1. Percy Best says:

    Gee what about ‘dipping’ into the $200,000 budgeted for the Quarry beautification project that so few know anything about? First the needs, then the wants?

  2. Shawn Mesheau says:

    I agree with Percy’s comment. Need over wants.
    My other question is why wasn’t this permanent repair budgeted for in 2018. It is apparent that the engineer was aware several months ago, prior to finalizing budget, that the need may occur at some point soon as it had been repaired twice already. Sounds like poor planning or maybe being told by the CAO that Capital monies were to for the most part geared to the special projects that Council can hang their hat on.
    Hmmm what’s more appealing to someone running for reelection, a fixed axle or a new park on Quary Lane and St James St.
    Oh and on a side note, why was the Mayor of Sackville in attendance on behalf of the town at the nursing home announcement in Port Elgin? Tweeted by staff on Twitter. Could it be he has his sights set on being this ridings next MLA. Our current MLA maybe getting close to retirement where he has been an MLA for Memramcook for many years.

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