Friday, April 10, 2015

Sawing logs with butter knives

Having the right tools for the job matters. The City of Sikeston hired me and a new public works director just as the winter of 2013 began. Unfortunately, during my first week on the job we got the worst winter weather since the ice storm of 2009. More unfortunately, during that storm and some subsequent snows, we learned that our snow plowing equipment was badly in need of replacement. We had four dump trucks with plow attachments, all 18-25 years old. They spent more time in the shop than on the road during a big snow storm.

As a result, snow plowing operations did not go very well. So for the next year we budgeted for replacement of the three worst dump trucks. Our three new dump trucks arrived in the middle of the following winter. In fact, they arrived about a week after an 8" snow storm, and a week before another 8" snow storm. The difference between the old trucks and the new ones was astounding. After the first storm, it took us 5 days to plow all of the streets with the old trucks. Under virtually identical conditions, we completed the job in only 36 hours with the new trucks, simply because they are bigger and they stayed on the road instead of in the shop. As the public works director explained, with the old trucks it was like we were "sawing logs with butter knives."

Just this week we took one of new dump trucks to buy some cold mix asphalt for filling potholes. In the old trucks we could haul about 4-6 tons of asphalt. The first load in the new truck was over 14 tons, which means in one trip to the asphalt plant we can now haul as much as we used to in 2-3 trips. The investment in new trucks, though certainly expensive up front, has paid tremendous dividends. We are providing better service to our citizens, and we are doing it faster and cheaper.

New dump trucks in the Public Works yard shortly after they were delivered.