Despite the recent cold snap and snow on the ground, the calendar turning to Spring brings about the seasonal embargo on portions of Palo Alto County's Secondary Road System. The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors approved the embargo during its March 19 meeting.
Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz reminded the supervisors of the practice twice yearly of placing a six-ton embargo on the older paved roads in the county as a means of prolonging the life of the roadways. The embargo program came about after an incident in 2009 when $300,000 in damages was incurred on a half-mile section of County Road B14 west of Graettinger when heavy hauling of grain took place as the frost was coming out of the ground, leaving the roadbed unstable. A similar embargo is put in place in the Fall, as the frost is setting in.
"Usually, the temporary embargo lasts about three weeks," Fantz noted, "but this year, it's kind of a wild guess when the frost will start coming out, given the weather in the past week or so."
Fantz estimated that the embargo signs on the various county roads would be posted around March 21, and the embargo would remain in effect until later in April, or when the load limit signs were removed.
The embargo is placed on the older pavements, which are typically six inches thick, and does not apply to the newly reconstructed sections of B14, N60, B53 and B63 which were rebuilt in the past five year period. The board approved the temporary load restrictions on a unanimous vote.
In other business, the board approved the purchase of a new shop truck for the Secondary Road Department shop in Emmetsburg. Shop Superintendent Pat Madsen and Fantz presented the board with bids for the truck, a Ford F550 four-wheel-drive dually, which will be equipped with a utility body. The utility body will have a welder, acetylene torch, air compressor and small crane, and will serve as a mobile repair unit to handle repairs on secondary road equipment in the field.
Bids on the truck were submitted by West Bend Ford at $41,600 and Jensvold Motors in Emmetsburg at $40,565.
Hiway Truck Equipment of Fort Dodge bid the utility body separately, at a cost of $29,934.
On a motion by Supervisor Ed Noonan, the board accepted the bid of Jensvold Motors and Hiway Truck Equipment for the new service truck at a total cost of $70,499.
A week earlier, the board approved purchasing two new dump trucks to replace aging Ford dump trucks in the county fleet. It had been several years since Secondary Roads acquired new dump trucks, purchasing Sterling trucks at that time. But in the interim, new regulations on diesel particulate emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency created new requirements for heavy-duty diesel truck manufacturers.
"Basically, we are having to help California solve their air pollution problem," Fantz told the board as he explained the emission requirements had forced Sterling truck to cease operations. "We can't buy Sterlings anymore and there are a couple other truck firms that have gone out of business due to these regulations."
Fantz, along with Madsen and Secondary Road Foremen Mike Flaherty, George Hubbell and Supervisor Keith Wirtz had looked into new trucks, and solicited best-value bids on trucks manufactured by Western Star and Volvo Truck.
"It was the consensus of the truck committee to go with the Volvo with the I-shift feature," Fantz told the board.
Madsen explained that both the Volvo and Western Star were both equipped with 435 horsepower engines, but that in choosing the Volvo with the manual shift, a better warranty was available.
"The Volvo is built in North Carolina and the Western Star is built in Oregon," Madsen said. "We liked the I-shift because putting an Allison transmission in a truck takes 50 horsepower to operate. To go with higher horsepower engines, you pay more for the warranty. It's the same engine; they just program it differently in the Volvo. The Western Star has to have a bigger radiator with the bigger engine."
"What about pricing?" asked Noonan.
"The Volvo 435 horsepower was bid at $111,500 and the Western Star at $113,000," Fantz said. "That's with our government discount and no sales tax. The regular list prices were around $160,000 each."
"It kind of sounds to me like the Volvo is the way they're leaning," observed Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.
Supervisor Linus Solberg agreed and moved to accept the bid of Gator Truck of Des Moines for two Volvo HP35 model trucks at a cost of $111,500 each. The motion was approved on a unanimous vote.