Source: Sherman Publications

DPW plowing costs too much

by Trevor Keiser

December 14, 2011

To reduce costs, Independence Township will outsource snow plowing in parking lots for the Fire Department, library and township hall instead of using Department of Public Works (DPW) employees.

After spending $6,903 for plowing and salt for all three fire stations between December and January last year, Fire Chief Steve Ronk said it was “getting hard to swallow.”

“With all the cost cutting going on in other departments, we got to look at doing something more efficiently than this,” he said. “They (DPW) can’t really compete with the private contractors because their cost is so high for the drivers or the operators.”

DPW employees get a higher wage because their work is more technical, he said.

Also, they’re union employees so they get doubletime pay on holidays and time-and-half after hours – before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. or on weekends.

“When the snow hits during hours, after hours doesn’t make any difference with a contractor,” Ronk said. “His job is to clear our lot. With the DPW, it triggers different pay rates.”

Library Director Julie Meredith agreed.

“We need someone who can plow at a standard rate no matter what time of day,” she said.

The library paid $4,915 for salt and plowing for the 2010-2011 season. According to Township Clerk Barb Pallotta, the township paid $2,906 last year to have township hall plowed and salted.

DPW Director Linda Richardson said she doesn’t have an issue with the other departments outsourcing the snow plowing. Employee cost for snow plowing is $21 per hour, and they purchased salt from the county last year at $67 per ton.

“Whatever our costs were, we would charge them,” she said.

She also noted there is debate whether to plow on a holiday if there was a snow storm.

“The guys usually felt it was easier to come in just after the snow fell instead of letting cars pack it down and it icing up because it takes longer to plow,” she said. “It’s just a matter of opinion.”

They charge the other departments for snow plowing because the DPW doesn’t have a budget for it, Richardson said.

“It’s a water and sewer budget. Our guys work under the water and sewer,” she said. “We can’t charge the (water and sewer) rate payers for snowplowing.”

Out of the combined $7,061,734 water and sewer budget in 2010, the DPW had $1,429,633 in labor costs.

Ronk said it's unfair to compare year to year because they really are not "apples to apples" in terms of weather conditions, but he can look at the final dollar amount and "draw a conclusion."

“I know we’re paying less per operator then if we have the DPW do it," he said.

On a unanimous vote at the Dec. 6 meeting, the Township Board awarded D & W Services, LLC out of Lake Orion a year contract for snowplowing.

DPW did not submit a bid.

“We just wanted to give it a year of somebody else coming in and doing it,” Richardson said.”