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County Supervisors Authorize Purchase Of Road Graders

By Staff | Jun 22, 2010

With a split vote, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of a pair of new road graders for the Secondary Road Department during its weekly meeting on June 15. The vote came after a recommendation by a selection committee that evaluated machines from Caterpillar and John Deere under actual work conditions.

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz appeared at the board meeting along with the grader selection committee, comprised of operators Dave Neilson, George Hubbell, mechanic Pat Madsen and Assistant to the Engineer John Wright. Wright explained the operators had visited with their counterparts in Emmet and Pocahontas Counties that operated the same machines for their opinions, and also had the opportunity to operate the machines on roads here in the county.

Bids from Murphy Tractor of Fort Dodge for the John Deere 772GP six-wheel-drive machine came in at $235,413 per machine, and from Ziegler, Inc of Mason City for the CAT 140M All Wheel Drive machine at $226,230 per machine.

Additional costs for front-mounted, reversible snow plows on each machine increased the bid price to $465,118 for the Deere machines and $471,460 for the CAT. The difference in final bid price came for a five-year warranty of 7,500 hours. Deere offers a standard 5,000 hours warranty, while CAT has a standard 7,500 hour warranty. The cost for the extended Deere warranty added $7,354 to the bid cost, with no change to the CAT bid.

“We’ve gone back and forth on this decision,” Wright admitted. “Each of these machines is very good and have great features, but it is our consensus to recommend going with the CAT. We like some of the features of the Deere machine better, but like I said, we’ve gone every which way on this.”

“How about if we buy one of each?” asked Supervisor Ed Noonan.

“We’ve thought about that, too,” admitted Fantz, “There’s something to staying with one brand of machine, with parts, manuals and the like.”

Wright pointed out that the Deere bid included a standard blade slope control, while putting the same feature on the CAT would add an additional $18,555 per machine.

“I like that idea,” said Supervisor Keith Wirtz. “We could get crowns back on our gravels with that feature.”

Bruce Stover, sales representative for Murphy Tractor, pointed out that when the actual on-site demonstrations were conducted, Caterpillar had brought a different machine, a 160M, rather than the 140M being bid. “I would urge you to consider that, and as far as reports that CAT has better fuel economy, I can provide you actual figures showing otherwise from counties running these machines. Also, there have been 152 service recalls on the CAT 140M so far, and that has affected counties like Sac, Greene and Buena Vista that operate those machines.”

Stover continued, “If you’re buying apples to apples, then I want to re-bid this. John Deere took over 50 percent of the motor grader market from Caterpillar last year.”

 “What did the operators think of them?” asked Noonan.

“There are some good features on both of these machines. One of our part timers jumped in the new Deere and in a half-hour, was grading just fine,” Nielson said. “The new CAT did make me a little nervous, with just the joystick steering, especially in the road gear.”

“I liked the power of the CAT,” George Hubbell told the supervisors. “The joysticks take a little getting used to, but I don’t see that as a big problem.”

 “Which one is easiest for maintenance?” asked board chair Jerry Hofstad.

“The Deere is laid out a little better and easier to access,” answered Pat Madsen, “And it has the reversing fan that blows out the radiators.”

 “I’d still like to see one of each,” Wirtz repeated.

“I’d prefer the CAT, but I wouldn’t turn down the Deere,” Hubbell told the board.

“I leaned both ways,” Neilson said, “but based on the resale value, I have to lean to the CAT.”

“If you want that slope control, then go with the Deere,” Madsen advised.

Noonan then moved to purchase the two CAT graders on a best-value bid basis at $471,460, with Supervisor Leo Goeders offering a second.

Noonan and Goeders voted aye and Graettinger and Wirtz voted nay, creating a 2-2 tie. Hofstad broke the tie by voting to purchase the CAT machines.