F acing the prospect of having to replace some of its aging equipment, the town of Hampton is eyeing ways to save money for future equipment purchases.
Although none of the highway department’s trucks are in immediate need of replacement, officials are trying to be proactive in planning for future needs.
“We’re alright now, but we have to look at an equipment replacement plan during the next budget cycle,” Supervisor Dave O’Brien said.
The town owns two trucks but one is 17 years and the other is 14 years old.
“They’re still serviceable but we’re going to have to make a decision within the next five years on the older one,” O’Brien said.
Because both trucks are older, it also increases the risk that both could malfunction at the same time. O’Brien said ideally one truck would be newer and one older so that the town is paying for only one truck at a time.
And while the town does have some money in its equipment replacement fund, it hasn’t kept pace with the escalating cost of trucks.
A new truck can cost upward of $200,000 and a quality used truck can cost more than $100,000. Even a 10-year old truck can cost as much as $70,000. And quality used trucks have become increasingly difficult to find as more municipalities face budget crunches and look to save money by buying used.
The problem in Hampton is further compounded by the fact the town has one of the smallest tax bases in the county and is limited to smaller tax increases by the state’s two percent property tax cap. The town board is also reluctant to borrow money. The town hall, constructed two years ago, was built using sales tax receipts and the town did not borrow any money.
Officials had examined the possibility of paying Granville or Whitehall to plow its road so it could save wear and tear on its trucks, but that idea doesn’t appear feasible. Most of Granville’s roads are too far removed to make it economical and officials in Whitehall have little interest in plowing Hampton’s road at a price the town could afford.
Ironically, the town is now looking at the possibility of plowing additional roads as a means of generating revenue.
O’Brien said it costs the town approximately $2,500 to plow one mile of road. But Washington County pays local municipalities as much as $4,800 to plow county roads on their behalf. Hampton’s highway department already travels a number of county roads to access the roads in the community, so it possible the town could absorb those roads without expending too many extra resources.
“We have to look at everything,” O’Brien said.