This past winter may not have been the snownanza of the last two seasons, but that doesn’t mean the city of Spokane Valley is going to get off lightly in coming years.
For that reason, Neil Kersten, city public works director, asked the City Council for direction on how to move forward with snow-removal operations in the future.
Currently, the city leases a facility that houses the city’s six trucks/plows/sanders for $4,195 a month and contracts with Poe Asphalt Inc. to do the work as needed.
Council members indicated at February’s winter retreat that they would prefer to keep the current arrangement with some minor modifications. They will consider hiring a full-time mechanic/operator and may possibly purchase the former Waste Management building, which is valued between $500,000 and $600,000, where the city’s plow equipment is parked.
Any official action, however, would come at an upcoming meeting.
Kersten said at Tuesday’s workshop meeting that there is no need to hurry; however Waste Management does have the building – which is located south of the Opportunity Post Office across the street from City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague – up for sale. Officials with Waste Management must give the city 90 days notice if they intend to break the current month-to-month lease.
Still, a soft economy and an overabundance of commercial real estate may mean the council can be a bit choosier.
“The good thing going for us, I guess, is in these poor economic times there are not a lot of people looking for commercial property,” said Council Member Brenda Grassel.
“I don’t think (the Waste Management building) is going to move real quick,” Kersten conceded.
Council Member Dean Grafos said the city shouldn’t be too eager to buy any land and added, “I think we can find other properties that are available for lease. We need to see what’s out there.”
The council agreed that hiring a mechanic operator also is a logical step in keeping the city’s growing fleet of trucks in good shape. A job description would be developed, Kersten said, and brought back to the council for final approval.
Kersten has also been charged with locating a new truck to add to the half-dozen already acquired from the Washington state Department of Transportation. Those vehicles are all 13 to 14 years old and starting to show their wear.
“It’s the corrosion,” Kersten said.
A backhoe-loader may also be bought by the city. Both vehicles will have to be approved by the council before they are purchased.
In addition to one-time capital costs and manpower, how much the city pays for snow removal depends on the weather and the amount of times crews are at work. For example, this year the bill for January was $30,000. Last year, after a series of record-breaking snowstorms, it was $600,000.
And while city officials say they are happy with the work Poe has provided so far, they plan to draw up a “request for proposals” to possibly advertise for a long-term service provider. That, also, would go before the council before the RFP would be advertised.