Searcy has not historically had enough funds to adequately maintain and replace its fleet of trash and boom trucks, according to Mayor Kyle Osborne, and it “has been a long-standing battle that our sanitation department has struggled with for years.”

The one-cent sales and use tax, if voters make it permanent Nov. 9, would allow the city to replace its trucks on a six-year rotation, he said.

“We pride ourselves on providing quality sanitation services at below-average cost to our citizens,” Osborne said. “Commercial and residential trash and boom trucks are essential pieces of equipment that allow us to provide this service.

“Due to the wear and tear caused by repeated, heavy use of this type of equipment, what they haul and all the moving parts involved in processes, it is necessary to replace them on a regular schedule to prevent excessive service downtime and maintenance costs.”

Early voting in the special election begins Nov. 2 and will be held on weekdays through Nov. 8 at the White County Cooperative Extensive Office, 2400 Landing Road, from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The eight-year, temporary tax passed in 2014 is set to expire in June 2022.

In the outline for needing $6.5 million yearly from the tax, the city lists $522,000 yearly for Searcy Sanitation Department fleet. That amounts includes an annual replacement cost of $147,600 for its three residential side-arm trash trucks, $25,300 for its residential single-axle trash truck, $155,000 for three commercial overhead trash trucks, $25,300 for its commercial single-axle trash truck and $123,000 for tis six leaf pickup boom trucks.

Citing passage of the eight-year tax, Osborne said “thankfully, the City Council was able to allocate $1,129,500 for new side-arm loading trucks and containers along with $1,439,000 to replace other aging sanitation trucks.” However, he said the amount designated in the tax plan was a large investment into the community but was never intended to be funding for scheduled fleet replacement.

“After using the equipment over the past several years and evaluating maintenance costs, trade-in values and useful life comparisons,” he said, “we have concluded that a routine trade-in schedule every six years provides the most value to our citizens and keeps our services running efficiently.”

Osborne said with the funds to maintain and replace the fleet, the city has “battled aging equipment and maintenance costs while striving to continue excellent services to our citizens.”

Concerning the amount annually needed to replace the side-arm trash trucks, he said “the approximate cost of a single side-arm trash truck is $360,000 and the city has three of these units. When evaluating the city’s plan to routinely replace these trucks every six years – and considering an approximate trade-in value of $64,800 – Searcy needs to budget $147,600 each year to maintain its fleet adequately and to continue to provide important sanitation services to our citizens.

“... The city’s sanitation fleet is an integral part of the services provided to citizens each week. Whether it’s a simple trash pickup, recycling or leaf and limb pickup, these pieces of equipment play a vital role in our community.”

Osborne said when it comes to regular maintenance of the trucks in order to keep them operational, the sanitation department “is very intentional.”

“We wash our trash equipment daily due to heavy, repeated use and the types of refuse we haul, which can be very corrosive,” he said. “Each unit receives regular oil changes and lubrication on key fittings based on hours of use.

“While regular maintenance is a must and helps us keep equipment operating smoothly, issues do begin to develop as trucks age. Cylinders that operate arms and the dump beds are a couple of costly items that begin to fail. Beds on our overhead and side-arm trucks also begin to develop costly issues as they flex and crack over time.”

The city’s plan for using the tax also includes $45,000 in yearly maintenance costs for the mulch grinder used at the city’s compost facility. Osborne said the grinder is greased every day and checked for wear and tear and broken teeth.

“While this machine has been an important asset to our community, it is currently 16 years old and often needs repairs,” he said. “It is not uncommon for the city to have significant unanticipated repair costs.”

The final question emailed to the mayor and Sanitation Department Director Terry Rutherford asked about the $131,000 yearly listed for staffing needs for the department. They were asked, “How will that money be used?”

“Searcy’s approximate annual staffing expense for its sanitation department is $1,570,000,” Osborne said. “The city needs $131,000 from the 1-cent revenues to help support this staffing need.”

He did not detail whether the city would be seeking to use the $131,000 to add employees, raise the pay level of some employees or to give raises to all employees regardless of what they are making. And he previously gave a similar answer when asked about $45,636 yearly in staffing needs for the street department. It would be up to the Searcy City Council, though, to approve any requests for salary changes.

Sources have told The Daily Citizen that department heads are not being allowed by the city to respond directly to questions from the newspaper about the tax. However, Rutherford told the council in September that his department “can’t compete” for commercial driver’s license drivers because “there are places in Searcy who hire people drive trucks and other things and they are paying $17 to $20 an hour.” His department’s starting wage for CDL drivers is $13.50, he said, and the city has to have them for trucks that weigh more than 26,000 pounds.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series on the city of Searcy’s “master plan” for using the 1-cent sales and use tax revenue if voters choose to make the tax permanent Nov. 9.

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