Ann Arbor Acts on Core Equipment

Items related to equipment essential for core services have received approval by the Ann Arbor city council. That equipment includes a combination sewer truck, a hydraulic excavator, a garbage truck, two vans, a wood chipper, and a firefighter training unit. Votes on the equipment came at the council’s Feb. 18, 2014 meeting.

Two pieces of equipment authorized for purchase by the council are used in the repair of water main breaks, which have increased in frequency in recent weeks as the ground moves due to deeper and deeper penetration of frost.

Here’s a sampling of recent water main breaks – from alerts the city of Ann Arbor has sent out:

  • Jan. 15: West Madison between Fourth and Fifth
  • Jan. 22: Devonshire between Washtenaw and Melrose
  • Jan. 28: S. Industrial between Jewett and Eisenhower
  • Jan. 28: Yost between Washtenaw and Parkwood
  • Jan. 31: Pontiac Trail at Brookside
  • Feb. 5: Washtenaw east of Brockman
  • Feb. 11: Pauline between Seventh and Stadium

The council approved the $441,535 purchase of a combination sewer truck, which is outfitted with a vacuum device – often used to control water in an excavation during the repair of a water main break.


City of Ann Arbor water main breaks by year. It’s not unusual to have several water main breaks in a given year. (Data from city of Ann Arbor financial records, chart by The Chronicle.)

Also deployed when repairing water main breaks is a hydraulic excavator. The council approved the purchase of this type of equipment for $176,472.

Both of those authorizations are replacements of existing city equipment. According to the memo accompanying the resolution, the combination sewer truck will be procured from Jack Doheny Supplies Inc. It will replace a 2005 truck with 6,685 hours of use. Over the last two years, the truck had broken down and needed repairs 63 times – taking it out of service anywhere from fours hours to more than two weeks each time.

When that truck is unavailable to do water main break repairs, a similar truck used for stormwater system maintenance is re-tasked for water main breaks. But that poses a challenge to keep up with the scheduled preventive maintenance of the stormwater system. And failure to meet the cleaning schedule puts the system at risk for clogging and backing up into structures.

On the hydraulic excavator, the staff memo explains that the John Deere model 135G hydraulic excavator to be purchased will replace a 2002 mini excavator. The primary use for that excavator is for water main repair. The new hydraulic excavator will be able to dig down to 19 feet, which is 7 feet deeper than the 2002 mini excavator. So the larger water mains, which are typically deeper and older, will be reachable. The mini excavator has been in service over 5,350 hours of use and half its total repair costs have accumulated in the last 3.5 years. The old excavator will be sold at the next city auction.

Also approved by the council at its Feb. 18 meeting was the purchase of a new garbage truck for $93,800 from Bell Equipment Company, in Lake Orion, Michigan. It’s a smaller truck – with a 6-yard capacity. It will be used for garbage collection in the city parks, according to the staff memo accompanying the resolution. The new truck will replace a 2002 model with over 14,500 hours of operation. According to the staff memo, in the last three years, 57% of all time spent maintaining the vehicle has been spent on breakdowns while only 14% has been for preventive maintenance. In that three-year period, the cost of breakdown repairs has been more than $78,000, which is more than half of the 13-year lifetime total of $141,480.

Also approved by the council on Feb. 18 was the purchase of two vans – from Red Holman GMC in Oakland County, for a total of $50,320. The vans will be used by the parks and recreation department to shuttle passengers when they start a river trip at one of the cities liveries on the Huron River. The van purchase was recommended by the park advisory commission at its Jan. 28, 2014 meeting. According to a parks staff memo, the city’s current fleet of seven 15-passenger vans was unable to keep up with the increasing shuttle transportation demands for Huron River trips in 2013, following the opening of Argo Cascades. More vans are needed to transport people on these trips, which start at the Argo livery and end at Gallup Park. One van in the fleet needs to be replaced. The van purchase would increase the total van fleet to eight.

Rounding out equipment purchases authorized on Feb. 18 was a $83,208 Bandit model 1990XP diesel engine-powered wood chipper. According to the staff memo, the new model will replace a 2002 wood chipper, which is used for tree removals, tree trimming and storm clean-ups. The unit is a whole-tree chipper – it will process up to 21-inch diameter logs. The chipper to be replaced has been in service for 11 years. It has 4,100 hours of use and 35% of its total repair cost ($74,600) has accrued in the last 2.5 years. The old chipper will be sold at the next city auction.

A final piece of equipment appeared on the council’s Feb. 18 agenda in the form of a grant application the council approved. The $334,140 grant application will be made to the 2013 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – to acquire a mobile training facility to train firefighters. The 48-foot-long unit will allow live fire and tactical simulations. The kind of unit that the grant money, if awarded, would allow the city to purchase is comparable to this: [.pdf of brochure for training unit]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.