Commission approves city manager merit raise, Train Depot rate increase

Compressed natural gas continues to be explored as an alternative fuel source for vehicles. Monday night the El Dorado City Commission took action to purchase the city’s first dump truck that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG).

“For at least three years we have been researching going to compressed natural gas for our vehicles,” said Brad Meyer, public works director.

In that research they have seen work done and visited with a lot of people who use CNG for an alternative fuel.

About a year and a half ago a meeting was held with several organizations about CNG. At that, they talked about the benefits of going to compressed natural gas. Then about a year later, a dealer approached the city with a truck for the city to try out.

“We have demoed it on and off for the last month almost,” Meyer said. “It seems to do everything our normal trucks do only at about half the fuel costs.”

Meyer said fuel was one of the largest costs to the city other than personnel.

After demoing the truck, the city was offered the opportunity to purchase it for $125,000, at a $40,000 savings of what new would be. They would be able to pay for it in 2015.

Meyer said they have a front loader in the budget for 2015 they could push off to the next year in order to pay for this.

Looking at the dump trucks, the oldest truck in the fleet is a 1987, while the last time they purchased a dump truck was in 1999.

“The 1987 is still one of the first out trucks,” Meyer said. “That truck would go back to being a spare truck and this would be one of our front line trucks.”

Commissioner Bill Young asked what kind of gas mileage the newest truck in the fleet would get.

Meyer said they do have a lot of idle time, so it ranges from three to five miles to the gallon. With CNG, the average is 12 to 15 miles to the gallon.

Herb Llewellyn, city manager, said they also would not have to do oil changes like they do with diesel or gas, and they do not see any carbon build-up.

Meyer also said because of governmental regulations they now have to purchase tier 4 diesel trucks, which cost $138,000. In addition, the tier 4 vehicle, has $60 to $80 in maintenance every couple of weeks, which does not have to be done to the CNG vehicles. Tier 4 also increased the cost of the vehicles by about $13,000 and that is expected again with the new tier which is coming up soon.

“If you don’t do some maintenance, a tier 4 will shut down and cycle through EPA required maintenance,” Llewellyn said, adding they don’t want that to happen when the truck is needed right away.

“In one of the shops I visited with the service manager and over half of the vehicles in the shop were tier 4 vehicles that had failed,” Meyer said. “They weren’t singing their praises. In fact, they were doing everything but singing their praises.”

Commissioner David Chapin asked where they would fill up the vehicle.

Meyer said they have begun the process to have their own fueling station for the city, so as they add vehicles and convert others they will be able to fuel up at the shop.

Chapin asked what the cost of that would be.

Meyer said it would be around $50,000, with a lot of the work being performed in house, then having professionals verify what is done. It could be up and going in 60 days. This would make them a customer of the Kansas Gas Service.

Chapin said he knew it was the wave of the future.

“I just don’t want to get ahead of the future right at this very moment,” he said. “That’s my only drawback. There are still a few little things they are working out in my mind.”

Meyer said in Kansas City, Mo., they switched the entire school bus fleet over. It also is used a lot on the West Coast, as well as in Oklahoma and Northern Texas.

“We’re committed to doing anything we can to reduce our overall expenses in all of our departments,” Meyer said. “The amount of fuel our sanitation department uses is phenomenal.”

“I know at some point in time this is the smart thing to do if we have unlimited money,” Chapin said. “Start-up costs are not cheap.”

He did say there are a lot of positive things about this.

Llewellyn said it would be used for trucks that run a lot, as well as police cars.

“We thought this is good enough and saves us money, so we brought it to you,” Llewellyn said. “If this wasn’t an opportunity, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

“I think the fact that we can buy this truck for $40,000 less than it normally stickers for, I say we give it a try,” said Commissioner Nick Badwey. “Then we have some track record with it. I would rather see us do this than wait a little bit and maybe have to spend $165,000 on one. I think it would be a good move.”

Chapin said he knew the savings in oil changes will be tremendous and it will extend the life of the engine.

“I would rather see us make a move like this to test the waters rather than replace the whole fleet all at once,” Young said. “We need to know what we’re getting into.”

Chapin did point out in the short term they are not saving money. He wanted to make sure people understood it would take time to see the savings. He also wanted to learn more about the costs and future savings.

“So rather than take action tonight, you want them to come back to us with a better plan?” Young asked Chapin.

Chapin agreed, saying he wanted to see how much money they would have to spend to see savings. He wanted to do due diligence to save money.

“It really only works if we start doing this thing aggressively,” Chapin said.

City staff will put together a plan and bring it back to the commission.

“I think this is a good opportunity to plan for the future as well,” Young said. “If you guys can put that together and bring it back to us.”

Staff will bring back plans on how a plan to go to CNG for some vehicles would affect the budget each year.

In other business:

• after more than an hour and half in executive session, the El Dorado City Commission voted 4-0 to sign an employment contract and approve a merit raise for City Manager Herb Llewellyn. They approved a 3 1/2 percent merit raise.

• approved a bid by Cornejo & Sons in the amount of $163,251.40 for the paving of Belmont Heights 3rd Edition in the Farmer development off of McCollum Road.

• approved a rental fee increase for the Train Depot, as well as opening up the east side for rental. The east room will rent for $25 for residents and $50 for non-residents, while the west room will now rent for $35 for residents and $70 for non-residents. The full facility can be rented for $50 for residents and $100 for non-residents.

Julie Clements can be reached at