Seven of the county’s 12 tandem dump trucks have more than 200,000 miles on them and they’re all — along with the 18 three-quarter ton pickups — more than 10 years old, according to Public Works Director Michael Skeen.
Other machinery also is showing signs of wear, but the economic downturn has led to extra repairs rather than replacements.
“It’s not drastic, but you don’t want that transmission system slipping when you’re going up Mount Alto to cut a tree,” he told the board during a budget workshop last week.
Deferring replacements another year or two could mean more pricey items would have to be purchased at the same time, he said. It’s also led to higher maintenance costs and occasional project rescheduling when a piece of equipment is in the shop.
“It’s the same situation when we don’t replace our public safety vehicles,” Commissioner John Mayes said during a budget workshop that focused on Skeen’s department. “We have a schedule, and when we cut back we get behind.”
The public works department is responsible for all public roads, signage, traffic signals and bridges in the unincorporated area as well as stormwater management, recycling and solid waste disposal.
The department has 102 positions but only 88 and a half are filled this year. Skeen said he expects to be down to 85 full-time and one part-time employees next year.
Commissioners are looking for places to cut the county budget, but County Manager Blaine Williams is recommending funding for all 102 slots on paper.
He said Skeen returns unspent money at the end of each year, but there’s no predicting when crews will be called out to deal with the aftermath of tornados, flooding or other disasters.
“You could craft a tight budget with no flexibility, but if something comes up they’ll have to come back to the board later for more money,” Williams noted.
Commissioners are starting a zero-based budgeting initiative with the public works, police and animal control departments this year. Chairman Irwin Bagwell also has asked for a review of the contracts for the county attorney, auditors and other outside service-providers.
The board is expected to continue its financial review through the end of the month and adopt its 2013 spending plan in January.