Street sweeper debate rages on

SALINEVILLE-It was about a year ago that members of the previous village council approved the advertising and sale of a village-owned street sweeper that had been the subject of much debate and controversy.

As of Monday’s meeting, however, the street sweeper remains in the possession of the village, with some council members still considering its usefulness.

The street sweeper was acquired by Salineville during the administration of Mayor Dave Berta, when it was obtained via trade for three pieces of village-owned equipment.

Council meeting minutes of Jan. 23, 2012, indicate then-Fiscal Officer Dave Slagle advised then newly-elected Mayor Mary Smith that a road grader, front loader and pickup truck had been traded for the street sweeper. The minutes also indicated former councilmen Jim Howdershelt and Tom Hays signed over the titles for the equipment along with Berta, although the sale or trade of village property must typically come before full council.

Under Smith’s administration, council first was split as to what to do with the street sweeper – some wanted to sell it, while others insisted it was an asset, and bidding it out would not fetch as much money as it was worth.

Street Administrator Ralph Ross went on record at that time saying the street sweeper was not functional, and if it was, he did not want to operate it. Lengthy, heated debates were held at council meetings throughout the beginning of 2013. Repeated votes were taken to sell the sweeper, with each resulting in a tie that was broken by the mayor, who voted to approve the sale.

On March 4, 2013, after three readings of an ordinance authorizing the sale of the sweeper, council finally approved placing it for bid.

Councilman Brian Zaverl broached the subject Monday, urging council to reach a final decision about the street sweeper, which still sits idle at the street department building.

Councilman Brian Tedeschi said he believed the sweeper had new brushes, but other than that, he knew nothing else about it.

“Nobody really knows if it works,” said Tedeschi.

Councilman John Higgins noted that although it may have new brushes, the sweeper, in fact, does not run and would need several other repairs before it could be operational.

A key broken off in the ignition, and the need for three new heavy duty batteries were just some of the problems cited by council members.

Asked by Smith to explain the street sweeper’s problems, Ross provided a laundry list of additional mechanical problems.

“The water system doesn’t work for one thing, and it does need new brushes put on it,” said Ross. “The vacuum system doesn’t really pick up the dirt-you’re going to have a lot of money in it if you hire someone to work on it.”

Councilman Jim Wilson said he wanted to know for himself if the sweeper was operational, but was advised without buying the batteries and repairing the ignition there was no way it would start.

“Everyone I’ve talked to says it runs, but doesn’t work,” said Tedeschi.

Hays, who was in the audience at Monday’s meeting, said he witnessed the sweeper in working order during his time on council, but “something had happened” since that time.

Currently the village pays a street sweeping company to clean the streets at a cost of about $120 per hour. Wilson suggested getting the sweeper fixed might be more cost effective than paying for street sweeping services.

Council decided to table the matter until next meeting, giving Wilson time to evaluate the condition of the street sweeper.