After seeing the money Sherman has saved with its in-house utility crew, the city is hoping to create similar savings with the addition of two new Street Department employees and the purchase of some new equipment.

Public Works Manager Kevin Winkler detailed the $1.9 million in equipment proposed to be purchased as part of the city’s 2017-2018 fiscal year budget during the City Council’s recent budget workshop. Winkler said the two additional employees and the two biggest ticket items — a cold planer for $400,000 and concrete paver for $300,000 — could save the city a lot of money in the first year.

“We’ve seen great success on the utility side where we’re saving probably something in the neighborhood of 50 percent of the cost (of projects),” City Manager Robby Hefton said in reference to the city taking on street work in-house. “I don’t know if it (the savings) will be 50 percent or 30 percent or 60 percent, but (it’ll be) significant savings doing it in-house. We’ve got some upfront costs that are going to be big, but we’ve got the money for it and we’re going to borrow.”

Hefton also emphasized to the council that the equipment to be purchased is expected to last for more than a decade. The other proposed Street Department equipment to be purchased include a pair of 16-ton dump trucks for $280,000, a front end loader for $275,000, an excavator for $275,000, a street sweeper for $250,000, a steel wheel roller for $55,000 and a lowbed trailer for $50,000.

“Our equipment over the years has been designed to cover a lot of areas and a lot of small projects,” Winkler said. “And while we do need to continue to do that, I feel like that our maintenance plan and our maintenance direction needs to go a little bit harder in the direction of repairing and recuperating — getting our streets back to the original grades and original elevations.”

To explain what the cold planer — which can remove layers of pavement from roadways — would do for the city, Winkler used an analogy about roofing.

“You put one or two layers on there and you have to tear it off, you can’t just keep putting on layer after layer after layer,” Winkler said. “Well, that’s what we’ve done historically with our streets. We continue to add and add and add. If you drive around the city, especially in the older parts, you’re going to see areas where there’s only two inches or an inch and a half of curb left.”

Winkler said with the cold planer, the city would be able to mill those streets back down to their original elevations, which would give them more capacity to carry water and, theoretically, reduce flooding. The cold planer would also allow the Street Department to better utilize its workers, he said.

“You reduce the amount of people you have to have on a job with this piece of equipment versus the current process that we’re utilizing now,” Winkler said of the cold planer. “To go along with that is the curb machine — a concrete paver. I have a hard time calling it a curb machine because it will do 10-foot wide paving. It’ll do anything from a curb to 10-foot wide (surface). It is very flexible in doing a lot of different types of work.”

Hefton compared the concrete paver to a big Play-Doh machine, except for concrete.

“It’ll go faster and allow us to do things we’ve never, as a city, done before,” Winkler said. “Typically we’ve hired out the contractors to do any major long stretches of curb work and/or paving work. We’ve never taken on that type of work with our city forces. Just like Robby was talking about, in years past we used to typically hire contractors to lay long water and sewer lines and now we’re doing that in-house. I feel like we could do the same thing with our streets.”

Growing city

Winkler said the dump trucks, street sweeper, excavator, front end loader and lowbed trailer would all be utilized by the Streets Department and the proposed Stormwater Department being considered by the city. Assistant City Manager Steve Ayers said Winkler’s equipment requests were ultimately about improving the city’s effectiveness on the projects it takes on.

“What we’re talking about is taking a step forward and being effective — getting the equipment that is built for the kind of jobs we need to do,” Ayers said.

After council member Kevin Couch asked whether it was common for cities to need these types of equipment pieces as they grow larger, Hefton said it was.

“You’re not going to see Whitesboro or Pottsboro or Celina do this, but as cities get into cities our size and larger, they’ve got crews that can do this,” Hefton said.

Winkler said the savings the city will see will vary per project.

“It’s like building a house or anything else, the larger scale you do, the more you save,” Winkler said. “When we did Throckmorton Street, we were able to do that for about $16 a foot — and that’s full-width street, 16- or 18-foot wide. (For) Shepard Drive we were able to do about $13 a foot and that’s with us paying $56 a ton for the asphalt.”

He said the contractor working on Loy Lake Road is charging the city $200 a ton for asphalt.

“I easily feel like we could do it for a third of the cost,” Winkler said of future projects such as planned work on the Sherman Public Library’s parking lot. “I feel like we can save in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $60,000 easily just in that project itself. Because it’s going to take us in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $60,000 in material, and I guarantee a contractor’s going to double that, he’s going to easily ask for $120,000-$150,000 to do that work.”

Council member Terrence Steele expressed his support for the equipment purchases and the savings it could mean to the city.

“It seems like when we do finally get bids, they normally come in about 30 percent higher than the original estimate,” Steele said of working with contractors. “And I don’t see what’s happening to the south of us to stop anytime soon. If we can do it in-house, I think we dictate what our city looks like versus relying on a contractor giving us these astronomical bids. So I’m all for something like this. This is a large investment up front but over time, it pays for itself in the cost savings.”