SEABROOK – The Laurel City Council held their regular city council meeting on Oct. 2, making preparations for the fall and winter months and the growing climate crisis as they opened recommendations for bids from the Department of Public Works (DPW) for a leaf machine and snow plow and from the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for their hazard mitigation services plan.
DPW recommended bid for a 2 1/2 ton dump truck with a plow to replace a 2005 Chevrolet truck that was previously used for clearing snow. They are looking for a new Ford vehicle under a Montgomery County government contract that would discount their purchase.
“The salt has taken its toll on it, and it’s not repairable anymore,” Director of Public Works Robert Ferree said.
Public works currently owns two other working dump trucks and a Bobcat for their operations in the winter season.
“We’re in good shape for any snow we might get,” Councilmember Michael Leszcz said. “Hopefully, there won’t be too much.”
Ferree also recommended a bid for a leaf machine, as their oldest of three leaf machines (purchased in 2004) requires parts that are discontinued.
Leaf machines travel through the city, and vacuum leaves collecting off the sides of roads. DPW was set to purchase a leaf machine just over $64,000, but needed council approval to carry on.
Each year, DPW collects leaves across the city and delivers them to College Park, which turns these leaves into mulch and fertilizers and sells it back to the public. DPW pays for College Park to take on the leaves by the yard, and is responsible for transferring the leaves to its facilities there.
Ferree said DPW does not keep track of the yardage they pay to put into College Park’s hands.
DPW is also making these bids in preparation not for this winter, but for the following year, aware that the process takes time and that the bidding process would not allow them to purchase new machinery in time for the looming cold season.
After DPW had finished their bid recommendations, Ferree stayed to bring to the council’s attention an issue with regards to the city’s contract with Services, Inc. DPW contracted the company to do “a variety of concrete work” on sidewalks and curbs, but the company failed to start any work or communicate with DPW. Their 90-day contract ends soon.
“Winter’s coming,” said Ferree. “There are a lot of curb, gutter and sidewalks that are tripping hazards.”
Ferree had found a different contractor that would be available to finish the concrete work before winter but needed a city solicitor to end DPW’s contract with Services, Inc. prematurely.
“The letter can come from me,” Mayor Craig Moe said, impassioned. “I don’t need a solicitor…This is silliness.”
“We need to move quickly,” said the mayor, promising Ferree whatever administrative discretion the department might need from him. “The 90 days is up.”
OEM went on to make a bid for its hazard mitigation services plan, updated in August 2016, in conjunction with the county’s own emergency management office, to keep the city prepared in case of disaster.
The necessity of the plan became apparent when Laurel was not prioritized in recent years for emergency equipment.
In its plan, OEM looks to replace their current diesel generators with natural gas generators, for its reliability, as the natural gas supply is expected to be “uninterrupted” during a natural disaster, and as a means of reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
The plan also offers an opportunity to try new “state-of-the-art” river gauges, which keep track of when the city might be exposed to flood risks.
The gauges program is currently in beta testing nationwide, and OEM hopes to be a part of that testing with 12 new gauges. Each gauge only costs $1,800, compared to upwards of $30,000 for older models.
The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) would head the floor mitigation program within OEM’s plan.
Stephen Allen, emergency manager, found this an important factor for the hazard mitigation services plan, as if the work had been assigned to the council of the city, “nothing would ever get done.”
Allen thanked the city for their support, calling OEM’s plan “the biggest regional projects that have even been in this area.”
“It bodes well for all of us,” Allen said.
The council accepted all bid recommendations to go up on its agenda for its Oct. 8 meeting.