Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration is keeping the heavy machinery it acquired earlier in the year for a demolition unit to knock down fire-damaged buildings.
Municipal officials had purchased the equipment using $731,000 in federal grant funds. However, federal officials, minutes before the equipment were to be unveiled at a press conference, told the city Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds could not be used to purchase the heavy machinery.
Under a revised funding plan, which has the blessings of the federal government, the city will lease-purchase the equipment using CDBG funds over a number of years.
Municipal officials awarded a contract to purchase one Komatsu PC290LC-11 hydraulic excavator from F&M Equipment, also known as Komatsu Northeast, of South Plainfield, for $333,100. Under the lease-purchase agreement, the city will pay over a five-year period. It has to pay 3.25-percent interest or $22,000 bringing the total cost for the excavator to $355,065, according to municipal records.
Municipal officials also awarded a second contract to purchase a 2020 Mack P164T semi-truck, a 2019 Mack GR64B truck, and a 2019 Fontaine Mag55h lowboy trailer from Grande Truck Center/Bruckner Truck Sales Inc. of San Antonio, Tex. for $469,310. Principal is $403,895 and interest over the seven-year lease is $65,415, according to municipal records.
The city is spending $824,375 for the equipment. It’s the same equipment acquired earlier in the year, but under a different arrangement.
It would have cost the city more than $60,000 to return the equipment, said fire chief Brian McDermott. His department is spearheading the effort in conjunction with the Department of Public Works (DPW).
“We’re going to get some good use out of it,” said McDermott at a City Council meeting earlier in the month. The equipment will be kept in a firehouse and be used by trained and licensed public works employees. Demolishing fire-damaged structures will improve quality of life in neighborhoods and prevent future fires at the same buildings, he said.
In many cases, fires that start at vacant buildings spread to nearby structures displacing families.
“It’s a smart move given that we couldn’t purchase the equipment outright,” said councilman William McKoy, chairman of the community development committee. “It allows the city to save a tremendous amount of money and move rapidly to demolish structures that are unsafe.”
As much as $200,000 could be saved per year with the in-house demolition program. Contractors often charge a higher price when the city hires them for emergency demolitions following a fire or building collapse, pointed out the councilman.
The idea for an in-house demolition program was proposed two years ago, but gathering funds to purchase the equipment was difficult. Initially, municipal officials thought a state demolition loan could be used to purchase the equipment, but they were wrong, forcing the program to be shelved in Feb. 2018. The next month, the city earmarked federal grant dollars to purchase equipment.