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Willmar committee debates costs of street sweeping

WILLMAR -- A private contractor's cost to sweep Willmar's streets is greater than the city's cost to sweep the streets, according to a summary prepared by the Public Works Department and presented to the City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee.

But committee member Ron Christianson says the cost comparison was unfair because the city's cost did not include trucking costs for hauling material swept by the city's sweeper, and he said the costs were skewed against the private contractor, Cleaning and Restoration Services Inc. of Willmar.

The summary, presented by Holly Wilson, acting public works director, stated the city's annual cost for sweeping was $55.30 per hour, based on depreciated sweeper cost, maintenance cost, fuel cost and labor cost. The city's sweeper collected 4,449 cubic yards of material and performed 1,341 hours of sweeping for a cost of material picked up at $16.67 per cubic yard.

Private sweeping was quoted at the rate of $69 per hour under a contract not to exceed $30,000. Cleaning and Restoration Services performed 183 hours of sweeping for a cost of $12,627. The sweeper collected 136.5 cubic yards of material for a cost of $92.51 per cubic yard, according to the summary.

The city uses a broom-type sweeper and Cleaning and Restoration Services uses a vacuum-type sweeper.

The experiment with private contracting began earlier this year when the Public Works Department requested the city buy a vacuum sweeper to increase sweeping and to remove finer material in compliance with state storm water pollution permit requirements.

The request to buy a vacuum sweeper was based on research conducted by the Public Works Department, said City Administrator Michael Schmit. The request was brought to the council and the council instead requested the city explore the possibility of hiring a private contractor.

A one-year contract was approved with Cleaning and Restoration Services.

Wilson, citing the summary results, recommended the city discontinue renting the vacuum sweeper through Cleaning and Restoration Services as part of the annual street sweeping program.

Besides the cost, Wilson said the vacuum machine did not pick up fine materials as anticipated from conversations with the manufacturer and with Cleaning and Restoration Services. She said the machine lost suction in street depressions and around storm water catch basins.

If the city were to buy an additional sweeper, the city would not choose a vacuum-type sweeper based on this year's experience, Wilson said.

Christianson said trucking costs should be included because the vacuum sweeper has a larger box, can sweep less often and carries its load to the dump site. The broom sweeper has a smaller box and dumps into a truck that carries it to the site, he said.

Schmit said the numbers "are what they are,'' but said he would analyze the city's trucking costs.

The committee took no action on Wilson's recommendation, but decided to receive the summary as information.

Committee Chairman Doug Reese said his first impression was that he was glad the city tried contracting.

"If we had bought the machine, we'd have a machine that's not going to do what we expected it to do,'' he said.

In other business, the committee:

- Recommended the council amend airport hangar lease agreements that will allow a lessee to store other items owned by the lessee in the hangar, provided an aircraft is stored in the hangar. The amendment was recommended by the Airport Commission, said Wilson.

- Recommended the council use unspent funds to provide $10,200 for radiant tube heaters on the north bleacher area of the Civic Center and to pay $25,000 for the cost of replacing a rooftop furnace/air conditioner at the Civic Center office.

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