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.”
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 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.”