By Tia Lynn Lecorchick managing editor
The county has decided to lease its heavy equipment and farm equipment, instead of owning it outright and being responsible for maintenance and replacement, which can be unexpected and costly, according to Michael Lamar, county manager. The Morgan County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved two lease agreements totaling an estimated $239, 481 a year for at least 18 pieces of brand new equipment on Tuesday, Nov. 18. In a four-year lease in Yancey Brothers/Caterpillar, the county will pay $173,348 a year for 11 pieces of brand new equipment, including street paving machines, track loaders, and a hydraulic excavator. In a three-year lease agreement with AgPro, the county will pay $66,133 for seven pieces of farm equipment, including tractors and loaders. When a piece of equipment breaks down, it is guaranteed that it will be fixed within 48 hours and a loaner will be given to the county in the meantime. “I just think it’s a marvelous idea,” said Lamar. “It is the replacement of the lion-share, if not all, of our heavy equipment fleet,” said Lamar. “One of the largest benefits is the maintenance aspect. By not having to do our own maintenance, it will free up our staff to take on other work instead of working on heavy equipment.” “This will give use of new equipment that is worth $2 million a year. We are getting a better deal than the state of Georgia. We will not have to worry about down time when equipment breaks because it will be replaced or fixed within 48 hours. I just think with the elimination of down time, freeing up staff in the shop and the quality of this equipment vs. our existing fleet is completely worth it,” explained Lamar. The county is hoping the first year’s lease payment will be covered through the selling off of their old heavy equipment fleet, which has an estimated value of $240,000. “That would render the first year basically free,” said Andy Ainslie, chairman of the BOC. According to Lamar, since the county has taken on project that require the regular use of heavy equipment, a lease deal like this makes the most sense. “If we can do it with first-rate equipment, then I don’t know why we wouldn’t,” said Lamar. Commissioner Ron Miltion also noted that the county’s current fleet is in need of nearly $180,000 worth of repairs and replacement as it is. “That right there is almost a year’s payment,” said Milton. “Setting aside a specified amount of money each year is so much easier than shelling out unexpected emergency repairs and maintenance needs that arise,” said Lamar. The new equipment is anticipated to arrive by January 1, 2015. The sale of the county’s old equipment will begin sometime January or February of 2015.