A new street sweeper delivered to Sunnyside last December is the wrong machine for the job.
That's according to Public Works Supervisor Shane Fisher, who delivered the news to the city council's subcommittee on public works yesterday, Monday.
The street sweeper former public works director Jim Bridges signed for last year is intended to clean streets and gutters with smooth surfaces - not the chip sealed streets in Sunnyside.
"We realized right from the get-go it wasn't the machine we needed," said Fisher.
Public works staff tried to make-do, but Fisher says the machine isn't cleaning the streets and in just 38 hours of use it wore out a $500 brush. It has since been mothballed.
City attorneys told Fisher the city has no legal recourse because Bridges signed a purchase order for the equipment to be manufactured and delivered to the city.
To make matters worse, Fisher said Bridges did not have the manufacturer do a test of the machine here before he signed.
Further, some equipment for the sweeper, such as a back-up camera, was left out of the package delivered to the city.
"I don't like to play the blame game," Fisher told the subcommittee. "But I wasn't in the loop. I don't know how we ended up with it. It's a head scratcher."
But the city ended up with it and public works officials are addressing the issue, Fisher says.
One promising step in dealing with the $200,000 snafu is that Fisher said the city of Kennewick is interested in purchasing Sunnyside's like-new street sweeper.
Kennewick's streets are a smoother surface and the machine would be a better fit. Officials there, according to Fisher, are interested in obtaining a street sweeper similar to Sunnyside's.
The machine would first have to be surplussed by city council action before it could be sold to Kennewick or other suitors.
Fisher told the subcommittee he's hoping to get about $180,000 for the sweeper if council approves surplussing it.
Sunnyside residents will also see some changes as city staff deal with the sweeper fall-out.
For example, the city will not be able to chip seal its streets this summer because the city doesn't have the equipment to do a thorough scrubbing of roadways beforehand.
Fisher says not chip-sealing this summer will also provide some savings the city can use towards purchasing a new street sweeper that meets its needs.
He told the subcommittee that by not chip sealing this year, city staff will have to play catch up over the next two years to address the roadways that were scheduled for treatment this year.
As for street cleaning, Fisher says the city is down to one old machine that is unreliable. As a result, he said the city may look into a short-term rental of a street sweeper to give the streets a once-over sometime this summer.
Subcommittee members and councilmen Jim Restucci and Jason Raines praised Fisher and his department for making the best of a bad situation.
For his part, Fisher pledged a thorough effort when the city formulates its bid and specs to purchase another street sweeper.
"Some things will be done differently next time," he said.