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Council sends street sweeper purchase back to committee

The city of Willmar's current street sweeper is parked Monday in the Willmar Public Works department's garage. Officials are debating whether to purchase a second sweeper to decrease waste that runs into city storm sewers. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council will send the proposed purchase of a new street sweeper back to committee after council member Ron Christianson expressed interest in having city officials compare the cost of privatizing street cleaning services to the cost of buying a new sweeper.

During a one-hour meeting Monday, the council voted 5-0 to send the issue back to the Public Works/Safety Committee after Christianson presented information from a local contractor who is offering to lease a street cleaning vehicle similar to the type the Public Works Department is recommending the city buy.

The recommended piece of equipment uses vacuum technology to remove finer debris particles the present roller brush-type sweeper is unable to remove. Increased removal of street debris such as sand is a permit requirement of the city's Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program plan, according to officials.

City Administrator Michael Schmit said the new unit -- if purchased by the city -- would be used regularly and the current, older machine would pitch in during the two five-week cleanup periods in the spring and fall.

Christianson said he first talked to West Central Sanitation and then talked to Patrick Boyle of Cleaning and Restoration Services Inc. of Willmar. Christianson read a letter from Boyle stating Boyle's interest in submitting a sweeping proposal and cost analysis.

The letter said he sweeps New London and Spicer streets. Boyle said his 2006 machine meets or exceeds all street sweeping rules and regulations. He quoted an estimate of $65 per hour for machine and operator.

The council approved a motion by Christianson to refer the issue to the Aug. 11 Public Works/Safety Committee meeting and invite Boyle to present a proposal.

Schmit said he was interested in getting information from other companies to compare all options. Schmit said the city wanted different cleaning technology to remove debris from cracks and crevasses left behind by roller brushes.

Last week, the committee debated the pros and cons of buying a sweeper compared with renting one, and the committee agreed to refer the issue to the council without a recommendation and staff was asked to obtain rental quotes from outside companies for comparison.

Assistant City Engineer Holly Wilson said she received price quotes from local contractors for a sweeper alone and for a sweeper plus operator. One contractor quoted a sweeper without operator at $59 per hour and another quoted $73 per hour without operator. A sweeper with operator was quoted at $115 hour and other quote for sweeper and operator was $98 per hour.

The current sweeping program starts approximately mid-March and continues through mid-November. The current sweeper has a 3½-cubic-yard hopper. Because the sweeper takes time to travel to and from the dump site, a truck and driver are assigned to follow and dispose of the debris. It takes approximately six weeks to complete a cycle through the city in the spring and fall, and four weeks in the summer months.

The sweeper collects an average of 1,900 to 2,000 cubic yards of debris and sweeps an average 1,248 hours per year.

The proposed machine is mounted on a truck chassis with 8-yard hopper and can travel at higher speeds, eliminating the need for another truck and driver.

The $172,052 machine would be purchased through the state contract, under which the state can buy vehicles and equipment from manufacturers at prices lower than what a single governmental entity could obtain, according to Schmit.

Schmit at first said calculations showed privatizing the service did not make sense. But Schmit later said he was not familiar with Boyle's company and said he concurred with the motion.

"If that company or another company mentioned had sweeping capabilities and we didn't talk to them, then we should delay action on the purchase,'' he said.

Jim Dokken asked that staff prepare written analyses for the committee. Also voting to refer the issue were Rick Fagerlie, Tim Johnson and Steve Ahmann.

Denis Anderson, Doug Reese and Bruce DeBlieck were excused.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150