2018-07-20 / Front Page

Board approves equipment bids

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Kennebunk selectmen have bypassed the low bids on two equipment purchases for the public works department, saying the lower-priced product was not up to the task required.

Meanwhile, the board passed entirely on a new truck purchase, saying it would rather try again than accept the one bid submitted.

At their July 10 meeting, selectmen OK’d contracts to buy an Exmark 60-inch zero-turn mower from Chad Little Outdoor Power of Scarborough for $13,166. They also bought two 2018 MacLean MV4 sidewalk tractors from Beauregard Equipment Inc. of Hermon, for $272,500.

Little was the only bidder for the mower. Public Services Operations Manager Bryan Laverriere, who is overseeing management of the department following the June 15 resignation of Eric Labelle, said no other company he solicited was willing to bid, knowing that Little’s price can’t be beat on municipal contracts, given that it reportedly has a regional exclusive on Exmark products.

Little offered a second Exmark model at $12,781. But Laverriere said the more expensive model was better choice, given that it is not limited to making hay while the sun shines.

“The motors are the same. They’re nearly identical machines,” he said. The upgrade is in the deck. The biggest problem we have is the chute’s plugging. With this machine we will be able to mow when the grass is very wet.”

With a $5,000 trade-in allowance on the town’s current mower, the new model will cost $8,166. Selectmen had budgeted $13,000 for the purchase.

The two sidewalk tractors were needed, both Laverriere and selectmen agreed, because of problems with the town’s current machines, which made getting to all neighborhoods in a timely manner a struggle this past season. The company had gone out of business, Laverriere said, with a Texas firm buying sole rights to its designs, putting the single source for parts half a country away.

New selectman Wayne Berry, who was not on board during budget talks this past spring, quizzed Laverriere on what alternatives he had pursued. Laverriere said many options were mulled, including rigging a plow to the town’s skid steer, but every idea kicked around was either too puny on power or too great in girth.

“Getting around the pinch points that we have, it is kind of an impossible task for anything, basically, but these types of machines,” he said.

Selectman Christopher Cluff said he and his peers, along with members of the town budget board, had actually considered buying no tractors at all.

“There was discussion briefly about asking residents and businesses to clear their own sidewalks, as some communities do, but the appetite for that didn’t appear to be there from either board,” Cluff said. “Nobody liked the idea of spending $300,000 on sidewalk tractors, but nobody likes the idea of (people) shoveling their own sidewalks, either.”

Beauregard asked $142,500, each, for its MacLean tractors, agreeing to knock off $13,200 as a trade-in allowance on the old units. Selectmen also approved dropping $700 to outfit the two tractors with backup cameras.

Three other bids were fielded.

Equipment East of Dracut, Massachusetts, asked $145,697, each, for two Multi hog CX75 tractors, allowing $14,000 for the trade-in, for $277,395.

Two other bids were lower than the one selectmen approved.

HP Fairfield of Skowhegan asked 264,983 for two Trackless MT67 machines, with a $20,000 trade-in, for $244,983, total. It also offered a pair of Trackless MT7s for $285,924. With the $20,000 trade in, those units would have cost $265,924.

The problem, Laverriere said, was the problem his crew has had with Trackless tractors.

“The MacLean is a lot more of a mechanical machine, there’s a lot less to break. So, the mechanics we have will be able to work on them,” he said. “The Trackless is actually going toward a computerized joystick technology that we are trying to get away from, that we’ve had problems with (in previous tractors).”

Also factoring in to the decision to recommend the higher-priced option, Laverriere said, was the fact that at least 24 similar units are in use in area towns.

“There is going to have a local inventory of parts,” he said.

Selectmen had budgeted $320,000 for the two tractors.

Given that this put the town $47,500 in the black, Sea Road resident Lionel Menard said the town should shell out $10,174 for the four-year extended warranty offered by Beauregard. Laverriere said buying into the warranty would obligate the town to send the tractor to the manufacturer for repairs. And, given that MacLean tractors are made in Canada, a breakdown would put Kennebunk right back in the same position as last season.

It is conceivable selectmen could have banked some of their tractor savings and applied it toward the new GMC Sierra 2500 4x4 and plow combination for which it had solicited bids.

Selectmen had budgeted $40,000 for the buy, but only one dealer — O’Connor GMC of Augusta — submitted a bid. And it wanted $47,000.

According to Laverriere, the overage came down to supply and demand.

“They’re having a huge shortage of those particular trucks for whatever reason. GM and Chevrolet are having a tough time manufacturing them,” he said. “There is really only one available in all of New England right now — that’s why only one bid came in on it — and that one was pending availability if they (O’Connor) could pull it from somebody else’s lot.”

Laverriere said rather than go with the bid he got, he’d rather solicit a new bid, swapping out the three-quarter ton Sierra 2500 for a larger, full-ton 3500 model.

“There’s a lot of those out there for significantly less money than this,” he said.

Selectmen agreed to the do-over.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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