County procures new plow truck

Truck, shop sustained damaged in January fire


March 14, 2019

Shana Neevig

DO US PROUD – As of last Friday, Sanders County is the proud owner of a new, although used, plow truck. The truck is scheduled to receive new paint, decals and upgrades and will be ready to move snow next winter. Late in January, the truck responsible for handling snow loads in the western area caught fire and was destroyed. The storage facility (below) also received damage and the county is determining whether it is best to renovate or rebuild the facility.

It was the end of January when the plow truck that services western Sanders County caught fire and was destroyed, just in time for the abundance of snow that fell in February. In order to maintain cleared roadways, the county had to develop a plan to offset this loss of machinery and availability of the facility it was stored in, which also received damage from the flames.

County Commissioner Tony Cox reported that an investigation has revealed that the plow's battery mounting bracket had broken, allowing the battery cable to contact the hydraulic hoses. The cable burned through the hose and ignited the hydraulic fluid.

"This is something that is very rare, though has happened before," Cox stated. The plow truck was used to spray magnesium chloride on roadways which is also known to corrode metal.

A new plow has been purchased by the county and should be ready to move snow next winter, according to Cox. The newly procured truck is a 1998 with about 800,000 miles. Cox stated that the truck will "not be anything fancy but should be a pretty nice truck for us." The vehicle will get a makeover inclusive of fresh paint and decals.

Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

Cox shared that after insurance companies depreciate vehicles when determining pay out value for them, it usually leaves little for replacement. Which brings the other problem to light. Should the county completely rebuild or renovate the existing storage facility?

As far as the storage facility is concerned, the county will receive $263,000 from insurance, according to Cox. "We are just investigating what options we have for now," Cox said in reference to facility replacement plans.

The county has contacted Great West Engineering, the same company that has been handling the county's solid waste and sewer facility overhauling, to "come up with architectural ideas and determine a rough cost figure" for the burnt facility, according to Cox.

"I do not want to take on a big debt for it," Cox added as a factor that will be taken in to consideration. Although, he "would like to see the guys get something nice that would make their jobs easier and feel proud of while providing better service."

For now, the county has collaborated with Montana Department of Transportation and Avista in utilizing their facilities. There are no fees being assessed to the county for their use, other than paying a portion of the utilities.

The county road crew has had to improvise in order to do their jobs since the fire. They have pulled together in order to accomplish this feat by being creative and working together as a team, the county reported.

Encouraging employees to perform at the best of their potential, the county implements a recognition program called "Going the Sanders County Mile." County employees who "go above and beyond" their regular tasks receive acknowledgement.

According to the county, "The District Road Crew was nominated because, 'During a recent fire at the Beaver Creek shop, Mark Reeser and Dan Bloom showed intelligent, quick thinking in limiting the damage, while Commissioner Glen Magera, Rich Wallace and Ben Bache travelled from Hot Springs to give their support.'"

As if winter in northwestern Montana is not challenging enough, especially when down one plow, the road crew has also been forced to operate from temporary shop locations because the fire also destroyed the building where the ignited plow was stored, creating yet another hurdle for the crew to jump.

"Thank you for all your diligence and flexibility during this challenging time," the recognition award reads. It is probably safe to say that without the road crew, Sanders County would be forced to remain least until late spring, or maybe even longer.

Shana Neesvig


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