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An item of heavy equipment described as “in pieces” at last week’s county commission meeting was somehow made whole the next day for an operation demonstration that appeared in a video on the Internet, making for red faces among county staff.
“I was floored to find out the machine was repaired and reassembled,” Ken Frink, assistant county administrator and public works director, said Thursday.
Frink had cause for embarrassment because the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Tuesday approved by a 4-1 vote buying a replacement for the machine, called a pan/scraper, that has been used at Citrus County’s Central Landfill. The landfill would get a Caterpillar hydraulic excavator instead, at a cost of $161,586.
Commissioner Scott Adams opposed the purchase because he said he did not think the landfill carried the volume of work to merit the purchase. With 11,000 hours of use on the pan/scraper, Adams said if it had been maintained, “It’s almost brand new.”
At the BOCC meeting, Commissioner J.J. Kenney asked about repairs for the pan/scraper, to which Casey Stephens, Solid Waste Management Division director, said the county had spent $420,000 in repairs since 2000 when the warranty ran out. Stephens said currently the repair of the machine’s differential would cost $35,000, and he could not predict the expenses of future repairs.
RingPower, a Brooksville business that repairs heavy equipment, would give the county $36,000 in trade for a new machine, Stephens said. The new $161,586 excavator — which Frink and Stephens requested at a previous BOCC meeting because it would work more efficiently at the landfill than the pan/scraper — would have a five-year or 7,500 hours warranty that would cover everything except travel time and labor hours.
“The governmental replacement cost on the pan would be roughly another $625,000,” Stephens said. “Or we could continue as we have been and do the repairs, but then I would be pretty sure that I’d be talking to you again next year on some additional repairs.”
Inverness resident Robert Schweickert Jr. suggested selling the pan/scraper on the Internet for more than RingPower’s trade-in offer, but Frink said it would be difficult to sell a piece of broken equipment.
Frink then announced he had received information from Larry Brock, deputy public works director, that the pan/scraper was disassembled and the county would have to pay for the repair and putting it back together if the board wanted to sell it.
“I would not recommend we do that because it is down there in pieces right now,” Frink said.
Schweickert, however, went to RingPower on Wednesday and found the pan/scraper up and running.
“I had no idea what I’d find there,” Schweickert told the Chronicle.
Schweickert recorded a video of the machine fully assembled and moving under its own power. He posted it to YouTube. His story and a link to the video are posted on Schweickert’s blog at http://www.groundhogresearch.com.
“We had it down to them for diagnosis and repair on the differential late in 2012,” Frink told the Chronicle.
The repair cost exceeded the amount Pubic Works could do without board approval. At a meeting in January, the board decided to buy the excavator instead of repairing the pan/scraper, Frink said.
“The excavator was in the budget for replacing the pan,” Frink said. “We called RingPower up and told them we’re not going to move forward with it and to get us a price on the excavator.”
Frink admitted he had made a statement on the record that the pan/scraper was in pieces at RingPower.
“It was my full understanding it was,” Frink said. “We were unaware that any repairs or assembly had taken place. We got on the phone with RingPower to find out what in the world was happening.”
A few emails were exchanged. James D. Carney, RingPower foreman, said his company “decided to finish the assembly of the machine with the thoughts that either way Citrus County decided to go that the machine would have to be reassembled.”
In other words, the pan/scraper ultimately would be repaired for county use or for resale.
Carney replied to Stephens that the differential was sent to Tampa for disassembly and quoting, not repair.
No one at the county authorized putting the machine back together.
“I decided that the machine would need to be reassembled, so I did this at our own risk,” Carney wrote.
Carney also said no one at the county was notified that the work had been done.
“I was communicating with sales department, waiting to determine if Citrus County was going to repair or replace machine with an excavator,” Carney wrote.
Adams, who did not return phone calls seeking comment, posted a link to the video on his Facebook page.
Clearing up the mystery still raises issues for Frink. He said he was embarrassed to have given incorrect information to the board, but it was based on the information he had. He also disagrees with a county vendor using county equipment in an amateur video.
Contact Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer at 352-564-2916 or firstname.lastname@example.org.