2016-12-29 / News

Cities explore regional large-vehicle wash facility

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD/SACO – City staff members in Biddeford and Saco are in the preliminary stages of developing a washing bay that could be used to clean and maintain large vehicles and equipment belonging to city and town fleets, and possibly including privately owned equipment.

“What it is, is basically just a large car wash that’s capable of washing dump trucks, loaders, large equipment,” said Saco Public Works Director Pat Fox. “There is really not a public or private one anywhere in this region.”

The nearest facility of that kind is in Kittery, Fox said.

Fox said the idea originated a couple years ago when city officials and staff first started meeting together. When he and Biddeford Public Works Director Guy Casavant met, Fox said, they discussed ways that their respective departments could save money.

“One thing that I brought up was, when the city gets rid of equipment, it’s usually not because we put an unusually high number of miles on something over the course of its life, it’s usually that the equipment is corroded. If we could prevent that corrosion by washing the vehicles better, and extend the life even by a couple of years, you’re talking a million dollar savings over the life of the city fleet.”

Casavant said a primary advantage of such a facility would be an automated system for washing the underside of large vehicles.

“We have a wash bay now, but it doesn’t have this underwashing system, and obviously what that does is clears all the salt, which is very difficult to do if you don’t have a system like that,” Casavant said. “We have a power washer and all that, you can spray as much as you can, and try to crawl under, but you can’t get it well enough.”

“We have an open area of our garage where we do wash trucks, but it certainly wasn’t meant for that,” Fox said.

According to Fox and Casavant, both Saco and Biddeford have areas where they wash their large vehicles, but the facilities are insufficient for the kind of washing the vehicles should get.

A new stand-alone, fully automated facility could be a benefit beyond Biddeford and Saco, Casavant said.

“It would be a nice facility, I think that it would have a lot of applications for not just Biddeford-Saco but Old Orchard, Kennebunk – all the surrounding towns,” Casavant said.

“Old Orchard Beach would benefit from a wash facility,” Old Orchard Beach Public Works Director Joe Cooper wrote in an email. “Salt eating at the underneath of our plow trucks and school buses as well as parking them out in the elements, shortens the lifespan of our vehicles.”

There is no clear consensus from the staff for how funding and control of the facility would work.

“At one point it was being considered as Biddeford- Saco building it together, funding it together,” Casavant said. “I think that’s now morphed into more, Saco building it, funding it and then other towns like Biddeford would pay to use it.”

“These automated wash bay facilities can cost up to $1 million or more,” Fox said. “No one town is going to absorb that.”

“We’re exploring partnerships and options for a facility that could serve the region,” Fox continued, “whether it’s publicly financed or if it’s a publicprivate partnership.”

Preliminary estimates for the cost of a standalone facility ranged between half a million and $1 million, Fox said. City Administrator Kevin Sutherland affirmed those estimates at the Dec. 19 Biddeford-Saco Joint Steering Committee meeting.

“Some costs of about $650,000 were talked about, but that was based on, if you just built the wash bay at the existing Saco Public Works facility,” Fox said. “But if you’re (going to) service more than just the city fleet, you need more room, and if you want to go fully automated, it costs more money. Those preliminary costs weren’t accurate for what we really need. To do a standalone facility, that’s when you get into pushing the million or more mark. But we have not done an exact cost assessment on that.”

Although the plans are still preliminary, Fox and Sutherland both said that a piece of Saco-owned land has stood out as a likely location.

“Our special project manager is putting together an (request for proposals) to look to utilize the site we currently own on industrial park road,” Sutherland said at the committee meeting.

“We’re working through those right now. We have a timeline. I have said that I want the RFP out by February,” Sutherland added later. “I want the RFP responses by the end of February.”

Building such a facility would pay off over time, Casavant said.

“It certainly is an investment up front, but cities are here for the duration, you kind of have to look long-term.”

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

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