Saturday October 6, 2012

BELLOWS FALLS -- The Rockingham Highway Department supervisor and the town’s financial officer have two weeks to find a solution to the department’s problem of aged and worn vehicles.

Highway Supervisor Mike Hindes told Selectboard members at Tuesday’s meeting two of his six-wheel, six-yard dump trucks should be replaced. The Selectboard said there is room in the budget only to repair the current vehicles, not to purchase new ones. Hindes said he has no intention of repairing the trucks because it is not worth it to put any more money into them.

He and Finance Officer Chip Stearns have until the board’s next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 16, to try to figure out how to fix the problem.

Selectboard Tom MacPhee told the Reformer he would like Hindes and Stearns to consider purchasing used equipment to replace the current trucks, as that would be less expensive. He also wants a better picture of what having no new equipment could mean for the highway department.

The Selectboard refuses to raise taxes to pay for brand-new equipment. MacPhee said next fiscal year taxpayers will already see a spike because two bonds -- one of roughly $3 million for the Rockingham Free Public Library and another of approximately $10 million for Bellows Falls Middle School -- will start being paid off.

According to information handed out at the meeting, two dump trucks are not being used due to engine failure and a rough body.


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Hindes said one of them -- a 1998 model -- could be used if absolutely necessary. The other, a 2000 model, had 154,608 miles on it as of September 2011.

The pricing for a single new replacement vehicle truck provided by Patriot Motors is $160,000.

Three of the department’s four other six-wheel, six-yard dump trucks have deteriorating bodies but all function properly. Hindes said his 2008 model is the best in the group because it is the newest.

The department also has two six-wheel, three-to-four-yard dump trucks (an International 7300 and a Chevy 4500) and a pair of 10-wheel, 14-yard dump trucks. He said he has enough equipment to get through the winter.

Hindes, the highway supervisor for 12 years, said each of the trucks are all-season vehicles equipped with a sander and a wing plow. They all are designed to sand and salt during the winter months, though some roads may not be able to get plowed until after a snowstorm hits.

"It’s tough," he said. "I feel bad for the people that are going to have to wait."

Hindes said the department, which has 11 full-time employees and three part-timers, used to have an equipment replacement system and one truck would be replaced every year.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.