St. Lawrence County may borrow $1 million for highway department equipment
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 11:41 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

CANTON -- St. Lawrence County may borrow $1 million in order to purchase new equipment for the highway department, according to County Administrator Karen St. Hilaire.

A resolution passed by the finance committee is expected to go before the Board of Legislators Feb. 10. The resolution calls for a total of $1.45 million for new highway department equipment, with an upfront $450,000 contribution from the county.

The funding would be used to purchase four snowplow trucks, excavator and three industrial loaders, according to acting Highway Superintendent William Dashnaw.

St. Hilaire says the county has struggled to maintain highway vehicles over the past several years, with many registering between 250,000 and 300,000 miles.

“That’s really not good practice,” she said.

St. Hilaire said five of the county’s plow trucks were in for maintenance during Monday as the highway department worked to clear snowdrifts from the roads.

“We have, over the past four or five years, really cut back on purchases in the highway department. The county of course has been on a financial tailspin so we put off buying new equipment. We are at a critical point now where things have to be replaced,” she said.

Last year maintenance costs for the department totaled $400,000. The highway department owns 11 plow trucks.

“We are at a point now where it doesn’t make sense to fix things that need to be replaced,” she said.

Dashnaw agreed.

“We have five spares, but they are getting a lot of use this year. With snow and the ice are trucks are taking an awful beating and they are getting to old for it,” he said.

Anticipating the purchases, the county created a $600,000 capital fund during the in the 2014 budget. However, she said financing the new purchases with $1 million in bonds would actually save the county about $10,000 in interest.

“On a lease-purchase option the finance cost would be $36,000. With bonds the cost would be about $26,000,” she said.

St. Hilaire said the purchases would bring savings beyond the $10,000 in interest.

“If you buy a new vehicle, it is under warranty for the couple years,” she said. “The hope is that buying new equipment will bring down the maintenance costs.”

St. Hilaire said the county had adhered to a new purchase rotation for many years. This included purchases of vehicles for the sheriff’s department and for computers and other large expenditures, but in the wake of the recession, the county couldn’t keep up.

“In the future we are hoping to return to cyclical purchases,” she said.

The bonding resolution will go before the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Feb. 10.