Plans to buy a new scraper or fix up an older one for the Jefferson County Solid Waste Department hit a slight snag after the department head noticed a potential budget error.
On Nov. 4, Dave Walrath pointed out $10,000 had been budgeted for repairs and maintenance to heavy equipment for the 2020 fiscal year. He initially requested $300,000, three times the $100,000 budgeted in 2019. During the budget discussion in July, Walrath said the extra $200,000 would be needed for repairs to the scraper and compactor.
In an Oct. 28 meeting, Walrath told commissioners the scraper is one of the most expensive machines the county owns, with high repair costs. He said a new chain is currently needed on the machine, and would cost $45,000. He said the last chain had been purchased three years ago. Additionally, he said it would soon need a new transmission and engine. A new scraper would cost $815,000 on the low end, he said.
On Nov. 4, Colleen Poole, county clerk, said some of the money had been moved at Walrath’s request to another line item. Walrath said that may be the case, but said he thought the $10,000 was supposed to be $100,000. Poole said outside of the meeting she did think it had been a typo. She said fortunately, the county would be able to open the budget if necessary.
“We strive to be as accurate as possible,” she said. “In a budget that size, mistakes are bound to happen; luckily there are things in place that we can do to fix it.”
Commissioner Scott Hancock apologized for not seeing the mistake before the budget had been approved.
“I think our thought process Dave, was that we were going to take $200,000 and move it to our capital so we could buy something if we needed to,” Hancock said.
Walrath said $200,000 had not been moved to the line for purchasing heavy equipment. The line remained at the originally requested $100,000. Walrath said even if the budget had been correct, the county would have had to open the budget for a more than $800,000 scraper.
“It might be irrelevant,” he said. “If we opt to go with this replacement alternative, we’re probably going to have to open the budget.”
The scraper is one of the most expensive pieces of county equipment, Walrath said. Walrath said Arnold Machinery offered $96,000 for the scraper. Hancock previously said he expected to get $200,000 from the machine, though Walrath had said Arnold Machinery valued it at $150,000 in 2017.
During discussion Oct. 28, commissioners discussed pros and cons of buying a new machine versus upgrading the old scraper. They determined it would be roughly the same value either way. Hancock said it would be about $230,000 to give the old scraper five years of use, including roughly estimated maintenance costs. Walrath said they would also need to factor in the elevator being replaced every three years at $40,000 to $50,000.
On Nov. 4, Hancock said in spite of the lower value, he would still rather trade the scraper in. He said the county should still try to get more than $96,000.
Poole said the county would have the funds to cover solid waste expenses outside of the budget. The solid waste budget was one of the only ones where revenue outweighed expenses during the first round of county budget workshops, when the $300,000 had been included.
Poole said the budget may not need to be opened if expenses did not exceed the department’s limit. If the budget were opened, Poole said a hearing would likely take place at the end of the fiscal year. She said she prefers to have all hearings on opening the budget at once.