Oscoda Township Treasurer Jaimie McGuire, right, is seated next to Supervisor Aaron Weed while discussing the trackless snow machine officials have agreed to purchase. Among other projects, the equipment will be used to clear the sidewalks along F-41 – between Cedar Lake Road and the former Air Force base.

OSCODA – An equipment purchase totaling nearly $150,000 was approved by the Oscoda Township Board of Trustees, with a driving factor in the decision being the safety of residents.

Superintendent Dave Schaeffer, at the board’s Jan. 13 meeting, explained that the Department of Public Works (DPW) supervisor  has recommended the purchase of a new Trackless Municipal Tractor MT7 snow machine. 

“The Township has historically fielded numerous complaints on an annual basis regarding the dangerous conditions for pedestrians on the sidewalks along F-41 between Cedar Lake Road and the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base,” Schaeffer stated. “The Township does not currently have equipment capable of removing snow from that stretch of sidewalk.”

He added that, due to several issues, Oscoda and the Iosco County Road Commission (ICRC) were not able to work out a solution where the township could pay the ICRC to remove snow from this stretch of sidewalk.

Therefore, Schaeffer said this has necessitated the township to move up the purchase of the required equipment by one year, from 2021 to 2020, on the township’s capital improvement plan. 

He noted that the vendor, Bell Equipment Company, has allowed Oscoda’s DPW to try out a used model of a Trackless MT5, to remove the snow along that stretch of F-41.

“The used machine is a model year 2000 with 788 hours and 1,831 miles. It was encouraging that the DPW was impressed with a 20 year old Trackless MT5 unit, but the long term needs of the department need to be factored into this purchase,” Schaeffer advised.

The $148,812 quote obtained for a new model includes the Trackless Municipal Tractor MT7 itself, plus a 51-inch Ribbon Snowblower with sidewalk chute, as well as a 5 Position folding plow attachment.

“If this purchase is approved by the Township Board, this would help avoid the public safety issues associated with pedestrians walking in lanes of traffic along F-41 during inclement weather months,” Schaeffer stated.

He originally considered the possibility of splitting the cost  of the equipment equally, three ways, among the general fund, public improvement fund and property operations and maintenance fund.

However, during the trustees’ pre meeting work session that Friday, Treasurer Jaimie McGuire said she would also like to see a portion of what is left in the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) checking account go toward this expense, as the machine would be used in the downtown district, as well.

She pointed out that there is an ordinance in place where the business owners are to shovel their own establishments, but they have relied on the township to take care of that for them. “So I would like to see that money go towards that purchase.”

Based on the talks at the work session, Schaeffer said officials will be hashing out the amounts for the specific funds to be determined, as far as the three he mentioned earlier, in addition to potentially utilizing DDA fund 248 to split the cost four ways instead of three.

Clerk John Nordeen said he is supportive of increasing efficiency when it comes to plowing the sidewalks.

Nordeen said the last time the board considered snow removal equipment, happened to be the first meeting of his term.

When looking back to research this topic, he said the last motion was to keep utilizing the township’s current machine, while continuing to look for a lower priced machine. “And that machine under consideration at that meeting was roughly $85,000.”

Trustee Martin Gayeski explained that the board was thinking about replacing the township’s existing Holder brand machine with another Holder at the time, but that the trackless model is a totally different piece of equipment. “This is 10 times the Holder and it’s a lot bigger.”

He shared that, after a recent storm event, he was able to watch the DPW use the MT5 unit at the intersection of Cedar Lake Road and F-41, and that it didn’t hesitate to walk right through piles of wet, heavy snow.

Nordeen said that, from what he has learned, the MT7 snow machine can also be equipped with attachments for use year-round on other jobs. This increase in utility and efficiency helps justify the cost, so he has taken this into consideration along with the other factors he has been weighing.

Schaeffer said the whole problem with F-41 is that, when the ICRC plows, their blade pushes up the slop onto the sidewalks and it is no longer just snow that has to be removed.

“The current Holder machine doesn’t even have a tenth of the horsepower associated with this machine. So that Holder machine is not going to touch that stretch of sidewalk,” he noted of the current equipment.

On the other hand, “This goes right through it,” he said of the MT7.

He remarked that, with the blower attachment on the used model that the DPW got to test, it is rather impressive to watch the machine push through the snow.

As for possibly splitting the cost four ways – at $37,203 apiece – Nordeen cautioned that the 2 mills approved to be levied for the DDA can only be used for operating purposes. So there are some restrictions on this, and the board will want to make sure of any strings that may be attached.

Schaeffer said he didn’t want to lock in the funding anyway, until it is know what is in DDA fund 248.

McGuire said that this fund, as well as DDA fund 252 that was set up for the millage, are in the same checking account, with the latter to be used only for maintenance and operation type activities. “So that’s why we’ve got to be clear what we can use from 248.”

Supervisor Aaron Weed made a motion to approve the $148,812 purchase from Bell Equipment Company to be adjusted accordingly if there are some restricted DDA funds preventing it from reaching that 25 percent.

The motion passed 5-1, with Trustee William Palmer absent, and Nordeen opposed.