Smithtown upgrades truck fleet
The Town of Smithtown plans to replace part of its aging Highway Department fleet with 11 new six-wheel dump trucks equipped with snow plows.
The town board on Thursday unanimously authorized the purchase through an equipment acquisition program run by Suffolk County.
Earlier this year, Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen said a new six-wheel truck would cost about $175,000.
Smithtown officials were criticized for what many residents said was a poor response to a February nor'easter that dumped as much as 30 inches of snow on the town. At the time, Jorgensen said plowing efforts were hampered by malfunctioning trucks, some of them more than 20 years old.
Last week, he said he would replace about 10 trucks, saving the town about $100,000 annually in repairs. "Usually, a construction truck, its life span is 10 to 12 years before it starts costing money to maintain them," he said. "I'm excited to upgrade my fleet. It's just the correct thing to do. It's long overdue."
Jorgensen said he expects delivery of three or four trucks -- built to the town's specifications -- by next winter.
Smithtown officials plan to borrow the money needed for the trucks. Borrowing is necessary to skirt state limits on a town's use of tax dollars to buy heavy equipment.
In the nor'easter's wake, Jorgensen and Brookhaven Town officials said the state limits hamper their efforts to replace aging plows. The annual limits are $800,000 for Smithtown and $1 million for Brookhaven.
Bills to increase the limits -- to $1.2 million in Smithtown, and $2.6 million for Brookhaven -- are expected to pass the state Senate later this week, said a spokesman for the bills' sponsor, state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport).
However, Assembly versions of the bills face opposition from lawmakers, who question why Smithtown and Brookhaven need higher caps when other Long Island towns have lower limits, said Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), a sponsor of the Smithtown bill.
"We're still running into a brick wall with these guys," he said of opponents of the Assembly bills. "All the towns need higher caps, not just Smithtown."