After years of repairing decades-old equipment, Gadsden City Council approved $2.2 million for new public works trucks and tools.
Some equipment is 30 years old. When looking at the hours spent on the equipment, it would be equivalent to 1 million miles, according to Howell Mathews, Gadsden Public Works Director.
The current equipment breaks down often which causes other issues.
"We will start out a day with a full staff here and maybe be short, three of our nine loader trucks. They'll be in fleet for repairs. That creates problems right there. First of all, we can't go to all the routes we need to go to at one time and secondly, I've got employees I have to quickly reassign to other tasks," said Mathews. "It's been very difficult to achieve our objective because without the equipment the calls keep coming in. People will say 'Hey, I put this out several days ago.' We have to explain to them we are short on equipment. It may take a few days to get out there and pick it up."
He said investments weren't made for equipment during prior administrations, which led to the issues the department has now. Mathews explained there are issues with garbage trucks as well as the grapple trucks used to pick up yard debris and trash, like boxes and old furniture.
Garbage service doesn't stop even if trucks are in the shop. Employees work longer hours to get through the routes. Pick-up for debris and other items on curbs can be delayed.
With the city council approving the purchase of new equipment, Mathews said it's a game changer.
The items to be purchased include:
Gadsden resident, Gene Millican, sees the Gadsden's Public Works Department doing various tasks often near his home, but he's noticed some work has been spotty.
"We've got a little bit of debris. It's been here for a week or two, probably a week and a half going on," said Millican.
For Millican, the new equipment is a better investment of taxpayer dollars than repairing the old.
"Definitely gives you a much better taste in your mouth. You're still going to pay taxes no matter what, but when your trash is getting picked up, your city is clean, your infrastructure is improving, it's just better. It makes you feel a lot better about your community and where your money is going," said Millican.
Millican said a clean community promotes industry, revenue, and people wanting to move to Gadsden. He commended the city's recent work to clean up Gadsden through various initiatives.
Some equipment could be available in a month. The larger items could take four to six months.
"The reason for that is there is such a backlog going back to COVID days. There are just not supplies on lots anywhere. Matter of fact the vendors have already told us if we want this truck, you need to go ahead and commit to it because it will probably be another year before we get any more in," said Mathews.
The council unanimously voted to suspend the rules on one of the resolutions so the items could be ordered rather than waiting another week.
Until the equipment arrives, the department will work with what they have.
"We are still repairing what we have in the shop. Started the day today with both our dozers being repaired so we had to borrow a dozer from another municipality," said Mathews.