Tahlequah city councilors ended months of debate Monday night when they voted 3-2 to purchase a 15-inch wood chipper to help rid the city of residents’ brush.
Mayor Jason Nichols broke the tie when Councilors Linda Spyres and Diane Weston voted against purchasing a specific chipper for nearly $37,000. Councilors Maurice Turney and Jack Spears voted in favor of the purchase.
Spyres wanted the council to buy a Vermeer brand, 19-inch chipper for nearly $54,000. Nichols submitted his own proposal, asking the council to spend no more than $41,000 on one of two proposed 15-inch chippers, including a Vermeer and a Bandit brand.
“I have done quite a bit of research on this since you appointed us to the committee,” said Spyres. “I would like to recommend that we get this Vermeer [19-inch] chipper. I like the safety features on it. All you do is, if anybody starts getting sucked in or pulled in, you just have to hit a bar with your leg and it shuts it down completely. I know it’s a little more expensive ... [and] it’s a bigger one, it will take bigger things, but that won’t really matter because we’ll probably make a policy that will limit [brush] to 12 inches in diameter, anyway. It wouldn’t have to work as hard as a smaller one. ”
Spyres also argued Vermeer is an American-made product, while the Bandit, she said, is Australian-made.
Street Commissioner Mike Corn had recommended the city purchase a 15- to 18-inch chipper, according to Spyres, but Corn wasn’t at Monday night’s meeting. Turney told the council he wanted to hear from Corn, a request Weston made during the last city council meeting, from which Corn was also absent.
Nichols said no one had been able to get Corn to attend the meeting, and asked the board to make a decision rather than continuing to delay it.
“I think [Assistant City Administrator Kevin] Smith checked into the safety features with the Bandit as well, and they’ve got a very similar auto-stop feature,” said Nichols.
Smith said he did confirm the Bandit brand has a safety feature.
“They have a safety feature similar to [the Vermeer],” Smith said. “I can’t tell you if it’s a knee-kick or a button or a jump-up-and-pull-the-spark-plug-wire, but they do have an emergency shutoff.”
Spyres reiterated a larger machine would likely last longer and hold up to its work load.
“In my opinion, I ... don’t think [the 15-inch chipper] will last as long. It’s going to have to work harder, no matter what size of brush you put in it,” said Spyres.
Spears made the ultimate recommendation that was approved: that the city purchase the Bandit 15-inch chipper, rather than either of the Vermeer models. He noted the Bandit’s five-year warranty, compared to the one-year warranty with a Vermeer.
Spears also said the city will save about $17,000 by purchasing the Bandit.
Councilors have yet to draw up a new brush policy for the city, but Nichols said that will be one of the next steps.
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