Laconia DPW director raked over coals at council

LACONIA — Paul Moynihan, director of public works, was grilled by Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who chairs the Finance Committee, about his management of the Department of Public Works (DPW) fleet when the City Council met last night.

Lipman was surprised to learn that the DPW decided to keep four vehicles that he expected would be retired when the council authorized borrowing $170,000 to replace equipment in the 2014-2014 city budget. During discussion of the budget Lipman expressed concern about the cost of insuring and maintaining vehicles that had outlived their useful life.

Moynihan told the council that since 2008 the department had added 20 vehicles and a snow blower attachment and scrapped, traded or auctioned a dozen vehicles. Four of eight vehicles — two salt and sand trucks and two Bobcat sidewalk plows — represented net additions to the fleet. The other four vehicles — two new pickup trucks, a new street sweeper and a new dump truck — were intended as replacement vehicles, but Moynihan said that the department had retained the existing vehicles.

"I have problems with this," said Lipman, who reminded Moynihan that he had requested an analysis of the cost of insuring and maintaining vehicles designated for replacement.

Moynihan replied that the cost analysis was included in his report and that the four vehicles "more than paid for themselves." The pickup trucks were used by seasonal employees, he said, while the dump truck will serve as an extra plow truck if necessary as well as a source of spare parts. The old street sweeper, which costs $2,554 to retain, he claimed more than paid for itself by reducing the amount of contracted street cleaning services.

"Two street sweepers for a city our size seems pretty rich," Lipman remarked. "When we make an investment we need the whole picture," he continued. "I don't want to drive by Messer Street and see lots of equipment parked and not being used."

"We're very concerned about not keeping anything that's not paying for itself," Moynihan responded.

Lipman said that he wanted "a plan," and after assuring Moynihan there was nothing "personal" about his remarks, told him that he presented one plan to the council then chose to take a different course. "You need to come back to us," he said.