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Washington County committee recommends truck purchase

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FORT EDWARD — In an attempt to get substantial savings on new Public Works Department trucks, the Washington County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee voted 6-5 on Thursday to recommend the full board spend $270,000 to buy two “glider kit” truck tractors.

The trucks come without the engines or transmissions pre-installed, and their emissions standards are lower than new trucks purchased after Jan. 1, 2018.

Several non-committee members at Thursday’s meeting said they do not think buying the higher-polluting trucks is the right idea.

The full board will vote on the purchase next week, and based on commentary at the committee meeting, the vote could be close.

Buying the trucks now would result in a major savings because buying them in kit form and having the engines installed would allow them to avoid increased costs when a loophole in emission controls closes in January.

The cost to make the two purchases this year would be about $240,000. One new truck with the emission controls is about $210,000. The county would use savings to pay for the trucks this year because they weren’t budgeted for purchase until next year.

The trucks will pollute more than other trucks over the next 20 years, but they will be legal. Any engines bought before the deadline won’t have to meet limits on emissions. They will be much cheaper, and they will avoid the regular costs to fix the emissions systems.

The county spends about $85,000 a year on such repairs, an average of $3,000 per truck per year, DPW Superintendent Steven Haskins said in a previous meeting. Emissions controls also reduce gas mileage, he noted. With a truck lasting 20 years or more, those savings add up. The emissions-approved trucks get between 3.2 mpg and 5.5 mpg, he said, while the glider trucks get 6.5 mpg to 7 mpg.

One resident at the meeting, Tim Havens, a local businessman who sells tractors and farm equipment, said he has some issues with the purchase.

“As a taxpayer, I am very concerned because we are buying trucks that do not comply with EPA emissions standards,” he said.

That led the supervisors into a discussion of the difference between legal and compliant.

“It’s a bit of a matter of semantics,” County Administrator Chris DeBolt said.

Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff said he is in favor of buying the two trucks now.

“I feel comfortable buying the rebuilt motors,” he said. “The glider truck is a better truck. The new trucks are more expensive. The recommendation of the department head is that we go ahead.”

Others disagreed.

“I don’t see this as that big of a savings. I think we need to set an example. Everyone is looking for a different angle,” said Easton Supervisor Dan Shaw.

“I think we are moving into an area where we need to be more concerned with what we are doing in the future,” said Greenwich Supervisor Sara Idleman.

On Friday, Kingsbury Supervisor Dana Hogan took issue with the DPW estimates for the truck purchases.

“The estimate provided by DPW for a comparable new truck with a full warranty in March of 2016 was $119,000. The estimate provided for two glider kits Thursday was $247,000,” he said.

Hogan said his town has had a different experience.

“We purchased a brand new Western Star in 2014 for approximately $103,000 — not $210,000. There is a great deal of misinformation being provided about glider kits,” he said. “The fact is, they were more expensive to build than a brand new ‘road ready’ truck last year. Fuel mileage savings is likely negligible and hasn’t been measured for the entire year (particularly while plowing snow), and emissions in new trucks have improved greatly in the past couple years, leading many to question whether any actual savings will occur.”

You can read Bill Toscano’s blog at poststar.com/blogs or his updates on Twitter, @billtoscano_ps.

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