PORT ARTHUR —
Port Arthur public has ordered a total of four new garbage trucks, purchased this month for almost $1 million, but the city must endure a harrowing two-month wait before they arrive.
When asked about the current state of his ailing 10-vehicle fleet of garbage trucks at a city council meeting Tuesday, Ross Blackketter, Port Arthur’s director of public works gave mixed answers.
“We’re doing much better, that doesn’t mean we’re doing well,” he said.
Since the second week of May, the trucks have been habitually delayed by mechanical problems.
Acting Port Arthur City Manager John Comeaux reported to the council that the fleet would often start a week with six or seven trucks and end the week with three or four.
Comeaux added that the crew was on track to finish this week on schedule.
Blackketter agreed, adding, “I have to admit, there’s a lot of hope and wishful thinking on this.”
The four trucks on order were given a 60-day delivery time by the manufacturer, said Blackketter, however several of the council members, including the mayor, expressed concerns that the service may go afoul again during the interim, causing widespread anger and sanitation issues in the city.
Port Arthur City Councilman for District 6 Harold Doucet openly expressed frustration with Blackketter, asking the public works director why he didn’t lease trucks as the council had planned during the June 12 council meeting.
“The problem was there are not many companies that lease garbage trucks,” said Blackketter. “The uncertainty level was just too high to meet our needs.”
Blackketter expressed a concern for the added cost of leasing the trucks, saying that the city had the option of using Allied Waste, a commercial waste company, in the case of an emergency.
“Leasing is expensive but right now garbage is a priority,” said Doucet. “We want the problem resolved in the least amount of town.”
When asked, Blackketter said he was confident that the garbage trucks would be delivered in 60 days.
The public works director was also asked to draw out the department’s new methods for maintaining the trucks, and they included new checklists for garbage personnel and bringing in outside vendors to do preventative maintenance on the vehicles.
“We are definitely going to stay on top of these maintenance issues,” said Blackketter. “We are going to have supervisors to make sure that they are getting the preventative maintenance.”
Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince defended the public works director’s judgment but also supported the city’s decision to lease the trucks in addition to purchasing.
“If we have an opportunity to not put our citizens through this thing again I think we should do that,” said Prince.
Ultimately, the council approved the purchase of the two trucks more trucks on Tuesday, for $482,128 with an amendment to allow the city manager to lease trucks if necessary, not to exceed $50,000.
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