Town Council Votes for Grant to Buy Two Salt Trucks

The Derry Town Council has approved entering into a grant agreement with the State of New Hampshire for the purchase of two one-ton trucks as part of the Chloride Reduction for I-93 Municipal Program.

Councilors voted 6-1, with Mark Osborne the dissenting vote, to authorize Town Administrator John Anderson to apply for and accept the grant. Mike Fowler, Derry director of public works, appeared before the Council at its Tuesday, July 9 meeting, to explain the grant. Fowler said, “As part of the widening of I-93, towns in the southern tier of the state have been asked to reduce their salt usage. We have been working cooperatively with the (state) Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Transportation.”

Through the grants, Derry was able to purchase a five-ton truck in 2010 and two five-ton trucks in the second round in 2012, Fowler wrote in a memo. His department is seeking authorization to apply for and accept a grant to purchase two one-ton trucks in the third round, which is ongoing.
The sticker price for the two trucks is $163,000, with 80 percent reimbursement from the state, leaving the town to pick up a net cost of $32,600, Fowler said.

He said the FY 2014 budget already includes both the expected revenue and the cost of the trucks.
State Representative John O’Connor, R-Derry, spoke in favor of the grant, noting that he recently sponsored HB 523, protecting the liability of contractors who are voluntarily certified in salt-reduction best practices. O’Connor noted that 40 water bodies in New Hampshire have increased amounts of chloride, and that these are mostly in the southern part of the state.

O’Connor noted that not reducing road salt could have an effect on future economic development. The federal government will not give the DOT permission to continue with expansion until all the towns are compliant, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could enact a ban on development, O’Connor said.

The EPA could also mandate that the town use a manufactured chemical product instead of salt, to the tune of $1,200 per ton as opposed to the going salt price of $65 per ton. Fowler said there is a three-fold benefit to buying the trucks, and thus reducing salt on the roads. There’s the obvious environmental benefit, he said.

There’s also a cost savings. These trucks are calibrated, and when they stop, they are not continuing to dump salt at random. They also come with a pre-wetting system, dampening the salt so it will stick to the pavement instead of bouncing off, and enabling the town to use less salt.
Councilor Tom Cardon asked what would be done with the current two trucks. Fowler said one would be repurposed to the wastewater department, the other most likely sold at auction.
“Could we wait a couple of years?” Cardon asked.

Fowler said they could, but that this might be the last round of the grants. Also, he said, his experience with older trucks points to more repair costs. And the rotating truck replacement is part of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), he said. If he had waited for the CIP instead of replacing trucks in Round Two of the grant, they would not have been replaced until 2015 and 2016, he said.

“This makes our fleet ‘younger,’” Fowler said of the grant. Osborne asked about the condition of the two trucks slated for replacement. “They are in great shape,” Fowler said. “They could be used another couple of years. But if we wait eight, nine or 10 years, it will cost more to repair them.”

Councilor Al Dimmock said he had gone to look at the trucks awaiting replacement. “They don’t have tanks or speed controls,” he said. “That alone would save us money on salt. If we don’t get them now, we may not have the grant later. We can’t afford to pass them up now.”
He added that Fowler gave the current trucks “more longevity than I would.” He doubted if the trucks had two years left in them.

“We need them, we’ll save money in the long run, now’s the time to do it,” Dimmock said.
Anderson said the one truck wouldn’t be a “gift” to Wastewater, but that department would pay the town back for it. The Council voted 6-1 to apply for and accept the grant, with Osborne the dissenting vote.