Mechanics Bay Lift–Again

On Monday morning I met with Gary Sandburg from Sandburg Oil Co., Inc. in regard to the safety inspection of our bus lift. I’ve written about this problem previously on this blog–this is one of the reasons we put forth our proposition to the voters on May 19 for a project to construct a two mechanics bay addition to our current bus garage. We need a bigger space with a new lift to effectively and safely complete work on our fleet. As frequent readers know, the proposition was defeated by one vote.

I spoke publicly about the problems with our current garage including the unsafe lift. It seemed prudent to meet with an expert to consider our next best option. After all, we were still using the lift daily and if I know that it’s endangering the safety of my employees, it’s my obligation to either remedy that problem or to prohibit the activity that’s unsafe.

Well the conversation didn’t take long. Gary said that he’s been telling us we shouldn’t be using it for years. I asked him if he would service a bus under this lift and his emphatic response was “NO”. He told me that we’ve been telling him for years that we just needed to keep the lift going until we could build a new bus garage or mechanics bay. Here’s what Mr. Sandburg sent me in writing to follow up on our conversation:

Subject: Safety Inspection of Bus Lift, Rotary Model #T110A (circa 1960)

It is my opinion that this lift does not meet the current safety regulations for the following reasons: 

  1. Age of the lift and wear of the parts. All parts are obsolete.
  2. Lift does not have incremental locking positions and can not be retrofitted.
  3. Lift does not meet Automotive Lift Institute specifications (which he enclosed for me in his letter).

What choice did I have at this point? I closed down the lift and directed the mechanics to stop using it. They’ve since taken the bolts out and removed the lift that was above the ground. We have hydraulic jack stands and the mechanics will perform all possible work with the use of the jack stands but I know darn well that it’s going to take them longer to complete work on their backs than it would under an adequate lift.

I’ve also asked them to document everything that they’re doing–what work can they do without the lift? And naturally, I want to see all of the bills from work we’re now forced to send to Jamestown. And don’t forget I still need these two guys to ready and then transport the vehicles for inspections in Falconer or repairs in Jamestown. I also need them to do all routine maintenance possible without outsourcing, keep the buses that transport our 950 students safe, handle all routing, answer questions and calls from the parents, and supervise the drivers, sometimes driving when we’re short.

What still fries me about the whole issue is the fact that this is going to cost us more. Because we didn’t pass the project, which would have been state aided at 83% with the other 17% paid from our capital reserve, we will now pay more for service and repairs–at our taxpayers’ expense. I’m proud of the fact that we’re at a 0% increase to the tax levy in 2009-10, which means no increase in school taxes for our community next year. If we’ve got a chance of delivering that again in 2010-11, I already know I’ll either have to increase because this cost goes up or cut somewhere else to sustain it. I had a good solid solution to our problem with no taxpayer cost impact and now I’ve got this. Frustrating, to say the least.

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