By JOHN HOWELL With some pleading and stretching of the facts, Warwick residents may not have to wait at least 18 months for on-time collection of trash and recyclables. The City Council learned of the good news Monday night and didn't delay approving
With some pleading and stretching of the facts, Warwick residents may not have to wait at least 18 months for on-time collection of trash and recyclables.
The City Council learned of the good news Monday night and didn’t delay approving $992,604 for the acquisition of three new sanitation trucks for delivery in 90 days.
The trucks could not come soon enough. On Monday, four of the fleet of 15 trucks were down, requiring doubling up on routes, incurring overtime and in some instances pushing recyclable collections to the next day. With the aging of the fleet – the newest trucks are two 2018 vehicles that were bought used; the oldest are from 2013-14 – breakdowns have become commonplace.
As recently as last week, the city was told it would take 18 months from the placement of an order to delivery of a new truck.
“He was hustling the best he could,” Department of Public Works Director Eric Earls said of James Vangyzen, automotive chief. Earls said that following distribution of specifications, Vangyzen talked to Ballard Mack, the sole bidder, with the message “we need equipment, we can’t wait.”
When Vangyzen told Ballard Mack in Johnston that the city would be buying used trucks if it couldn’t get new ones sooner, the company located three new trucks in Pennsylvania.
Suddenly the picture changed from desperation to expectation. Maybe the city would have the trucks to provide reliable service without waiting until 2023.
Vangyzen’s news spread quickly, but what Ballard Mack was promising was the cab and chassis to the trucks. They still needed to be outfitted with bodies and the mechanics to raise and dump trash and recyclable carts.
Ballard Mack received two bids for bodies – one from Lebrie, which built the bodies of the trucks the city has, and the other from New Way. Both companies said it would take 11 to 12 months to outfit the cabs and chassis, dashing dreams of having the trucks this year.
Vangyzen realized New Way is anxious to expand its customer base and might improve on their delivery with the prospect of winning the contract. Indeed, they were, yet Vangyzen wasn’t ready to recommend bid approval.
He wanted to see the New Way system in action and talk to people using New Way day in and day out, as well as mechanics faced with repairs. DPW mechanic Mike Ayers was sent to visit a Massachusetts municipality that has both Lebrie and New Way bodies on their trucks. He returned with a positive report on the vehicles and the company’s training and backup support.
Armed with those recommendations, Christy Moretti, DPW office manager, presented the recommendation to the council’s Finance Committee, which embraced the news.
Mayor Frank Picozzi said Tuesday the city would have never been in this position had prior administrations adhered to a program of systematically replacing equipment. With passage of the current budget, the city has implemented a lease/purchase program of purchasing new equipment for all departments. About $6.5 million will be spent in the current year.
Picozzi, who was disappointed when he had a lead on a new rescue only to have it snatched by another municipality, is not rejoicing until the trucks are here.
As for the three trucks, they won’t be exactly off the showroom floor when they arrive. After the cabs and chassis are assembled in Pennsylvania, they will be driven to Tennessee for the bodies. They will then be driven to Warwick.
As Earls observed, by the time they get here, they’ll need a change of oil. And then they’ll be making pickups.