Unplanned expense in Bellaire

BELLAIRE Bellaire Village Administrator Dan Marling unveiled an ambitious plan of action for the village’s water department earlier this month.

A lot of goals were listed and, along with that, a lot of costs were detailed about what will be needed going forward to accomplish those goals.

A small snafu was thrown into the mix Thursday when Marling announced that the village was finally waving the white flag on its suction truck.

The engine had gone out and, depending on method, was going to cost anywhere from $7,000-$15,000 to repair. While far cheaper than purchasing a new, or even used, suction truck, the total was greater than the remaining capital worth of the current truck.

In other words, time to pony up some cash.

“We had an unexpected demise with the suction/combo truck,” Marling said. “The engine expired. I didn’t want it to come to this. However, it’s not within the realm to be repaired.”

In talking with Mayor Vince DiFabrizio, Marling explained they tried to explore all of their options.

A new truck would run the village around $300,000. These types of trucks, used primarily by the sewer and sanitation departments, are specialty vehicles and thus carry a hefty price tag.

That type of expense is not an option, so Marling began searching for used trucks.

He believes he’s found one in the municipality of Burgettstown, Pa.

Burgettstown recently purchased a new truck and is looking to unload its old model.

“It has around 80,000 miles on it and appears to be in good shape,” Marling said. “I haven’t inspected it physically yet.”

The cheaper option would be to simply fix the truck. One estimate from Bill’s Towing placed the repair costs at $7,000.

But how long would that last? After all, the current truck used by the village is a 1992 and has a laundry list of issues, aside from the engine.

“Could we get through another year or so? Maybe,” Marling said. “But I can’t guarantee that if we spend the $7,000 to get it fixed and brink it back that it won’t break down again the next day.”

An ordinance was brought before council giving Marling the authorization to make a purchase in excess of $75,000 for a suction/combo truck.

The Burgettstown model’s cost is $75,000. Marling noted there is a 1995 model available from another dealer for $105,000 and a 1992 model with more than 400,000 miles.

Burgettstown appears the way to go. One way or another, the village is going to need a new truck.

The good news is a preliminary plan was in place in the event this transpired.

Village financial officer Tom Sable noted that Marling had done an excellent job in the last year conveying the various issues with the truck.

Because of that, Sable set up a preliminary replacement fund.

Money will still need to be borrowed, with a repayment schedule taking anywhere from 3-5 years.

Sable wants to find out specifically from Marling what all departments will utilize the services of the suction/combo truck. That way, the money for the vehicle can be pulled from multiple village funds and not just sanitation.

“That will give us the ability to divide it up among different departments,” Sable said.

The question was posed what might happen should the village go without a suction truck.

Marling noted that in the past, the village has been forced to seek outside assistance, paying $1,000s of dollars to a Pennsylvania company for assistance. The City of Martins Ferry has provided help in the past with its truck, but Marling noted Bellaire can’t repeatedly go to its neighbors seeking assistance.

Councilman Jim Williams motioned to go ahead with the second and third readings of the ordinance. After that passed and the readings were held, he again motioned to pass the ordinance. Councilman Jim Piatt seconded and the legislation passed 6-0, giving Marling the authorization to go shopping.

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com