Monday April 8, 2013

WILMINGTON -- A new tractor will be making its way into town in mid-to-late May.

"This unit that we tested for a couple weeks in the fall, it worked very well," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy.

He was speaking about a tractor for the Highway Department, which will take care of roadside mowing and other similar tasks.

On April 3, Murphy requested authorization for the purchase from the Selectboard at its regular meeting. Since it is outside the regular budget, town management needs to get permission before moving forward on the purchase.

"We want to use the funding we got from FEMA," he said. "We have received more than enough to cover this piece of equipment."

The town had received close to $200,000 in reimbursements for "wear and tear and hours," Murphy told the Reformer.

FEMA will give the Highway Department a certain percentage of a set fee for the equipment and services, Murphy said. He thought it was close to 90 percent.
"During the year we kept the cash flow (in the general fund)," he said. "Now we have a better handle on it."

Purchasing a tractor was delayed due to Tropical Storm Irene as well as other prior setbacks. During Irene, the town had used money from the Highway Department budget for flood recovery purposes, so the purchase was put on hold until now.

Highway Department Supervisor Bill Hunt attended the meeting to discuss the purchase. He said it was "a great piece of machinery" and making the purchase would save the department and town a lot of money.

Murphy talked about how fewer men would be required for some of the jobs it will be used for. That would free employees up for other work and save time.

"I actually saw this machinery at work," said Selectboard member Jim Burke. "It not only cuts the roadside intersection but tree limbs that are getting close to interfering with cars or trucks."

"We get a lot of complaints about roads (that people) can't see, especially at intersections," said Hunt. "(After we use the tractor) it may look poor but in a month or two, it comes back and it looks better each year."

Hunt said this purchase has been on the table for the last five to seven years.

"We had (planned) a 10-year lease with Dover, but then they backed out," he said. The Whitingham Highway Department uses a similar tractor from May to October and Dover also is supposed to be obtaining one soon, Murphy added.

A member of the public asked about what the potential damage could be from using the tractor.

"The tractor actually sits on the road, not on the bank or on the rut," said Hunt. "It might look like a little eyesore for a couple weeks, but the beauty of it is you know that brush doesn't grow back. But if you use a chainsaw, it does."

Hunt talked about some other positive attributes of the purchase.

The tractor would cut down on the use of the chipper that the road crew uses. If the tractor cuts down on more of the brush than in previous years, it also will lessen the interference of branches and other brush during a potential storm.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.