Pothole patcher purchase approved
Motorists cruising around Rifle are seeing more potholes this winter, a fact that city staff attributes to the freezing and thawing of increased precipitation.
In an effort to try and stay on top of the issue, City Council on Wednesday, Jan. 20, approved the purchase of a new pothole patching machine at a cheaper cost than originally suggested.
The new Python 5000 machine will allow for year-round repairs of potholes, while only requiring one employee to operate the machine, Bobby O’Dell, Rifle public works superintendent, wrote in a memo to Council.
Currently, public works uses a four-man crew to operate multiple pieces of equipment needed to repair potholes in town. In addition to cutting back demand on an already limited public works staff, the new machine also allows the employee to operate it from the safety of a cab, O’Dell said.
During the 2016 budget process, the city had received a quote for the piece of equipment totaling $392,435. However, due to a business’ inability to purchase a machine it ordered, that same vendor offered the city a pothole patcher for $290,000, according to the memo.
O’Dell told Council on Wednesday that the machine exceeded the specifications previously requested by the city.
Although the purchase was part of a larger street improvement package discussed during the budget planning process, the budget does not include a specific allocation for the new equipment.
The money will likely come from the Street Maintenance Fund, which is projected to end 2016 with an unrestricted balance — the fund is required to keep $5.6 million for Highway 13 devolution and improvements — of $2.3 million. Since the purchase was not included in the final 2016 budget, it will require a supplemental appropriation at the end of 2016.
Street repairs are an ongoing topic of conversation. In 2015, Rifle voters narrowly approved a ballot measure allowing the city to borrow up to $5 million for street repairs and maintenance.
When it was originally proposed in 2015, city staff contended that the money was needed to be more proactive with road repairs, which would extend the useful life of city streets.
In a memo sent to council in late June, City Manager Matt Sturgeon cited an approximate cost of $2.9 million to address streets with immediate repair needs. Also at the time, a map highlighting maintenance needs in the city showed 3.51 miles of road in need of urgent repair and another 3.73 miles listed as important.
While voters approved the measure, the city has yet to borrow any of the money. During the 2016 budget process, Council directed staff to draft a proposal for investing in streets while trying to borrow as small a sum of money as possible. Consequently, no additional revenue or expenditures associated with the ballot question were included in the 2016 budget.
In an email, Sturgeon said staff is getting close to a recommendation on the street maintenance issue, and it could be presented as soon as Council’s Feb. 17 meeting.
With the explosion of potholes brought on by harsh winter weather, the repair needs likely have not lessened since voters approved the ballot measure in September 2015.
O’Dell opened his presentation to Council on Wednesday by saying, “I’m here tonight to talk to you guys about potholes — I’m sure you’ve seen several in town.”
The remark drew some laughter and remarks from members of Council. Mayor Randy Winkler noted later in the meeting that “it’s been a nasty year for potholes.”
That is due to the recent snow and temperature swings, which causes the precipitation to freeze and then thaw.
There have been worse years for potholes, but it has been some time, O’Dell said last Thursday.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve had it this bad with the freeze-thaw cycle,” he added.
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