Select Board ~ Short Takes from Monday, December 6, 2021

At its virtual meeting on December 6 the Select Board purchased a two-year supply of road salt; authorized the 18-month rental of a vacuum truck and the purchase of three hybrid-model police cars; then accepted land easements and a donation to support sewer connection on Middlesex Turnpike.

The town will be paying a lot more for road salt this winter.

The Select Board approved a two-year agreement for rock and “solar” salt, priced between $63 and $65 per ton.

Department of Public Works Director David Manugian told the board that an earlier collective procurement had to be renegotiated, resulting in a price increase of about 50 percent. “How it’s produced and how it’s getting here are the two main factors,” he said. “Some of the production is under strain.”

He added, “This is probably an item we may want to rebid more frequently to take advantage of changes in the market.” There may at some point be an opportunity to opt out of the current commitment, he noted.

In answer to a question from board member Bopha Malone, Manugian explained that the town purchases salt that is mined as well as salt that results from evaporation of ocean water – “solar salt.”

Manugian said that during a “light snow year,” the town spreads 2,000 to 2,500 tons of salt. “A really heavy winter is close to 4,500 tons.” The DPW salt shed stores 1,500 tons.

The Select Board also approved purchase of magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, which are used in liquid form as a pre-emptive de-icing agent.

Select Board Authorizes Rental of Vacuum Truck for DPW

Manugian also had another expensive item on his agenda: rental of a vacuum truck, which he described as “a large pump and tank on a truck frame.” and “a very specialized piece of equipment.”

A new vacuum truck is included in the capital article on the 2022 town meeting warrant. Meanwhile, Manugian told the board, “There has been significant down time such as we have to rent in emergencies.”

He requested, and the board granted, authorization to rent for the next 18 months, at a cost of more than $190,000. That compares to short-term rentals of $5,000 to $6,000 a day, and the purchase price for the new truck, which is $450,000 to $500,000. The new vehicle should last 12-15 years, Manugian said, and it could require at least a year of lead time for outfitting.

The vacuum truck in certain situations “will actually save us some money in certain water and sewer projects,” he mentioned.

“We’re all feeling a bit of sticker shock,” commented board member Emily Mitchell. She noted that the monthly rental is less expensive than daily rental. “That’s a nice shine you put on that apple,” cracked board member William Moonan.

“It’s a lot of money but the alternatives are not good,” said board Chair Margot Fleischman.

Purchase of Three Police Vehicles

The Select Board also approved the purchase of three replacement police vehicles, all of them all-wheel-drive hybrid class. Manugian said the total purchase price of slightly more than $100,000 is thousands of dollars less than the amount approved by town meeting. The balance will land in the free cash account, although there will be some additional costs for outfitting, he noted.

Manugian explained that the pre-qualified bids were collectively procured through the town of Milton.

Land Easements and a Donation to Support Sewer Connection on Middlesex Turnpike

Also at Monday’s meeting, the Select Board accepted two land easements that will facilitate a trail connecting the Fawn Lake area with Donovan Drive, off Springs Road.

Also accepted was a donation of $150,000 from Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc. to help finance sewer and water improvements along the Middlesex Turnpike corridor. Ultragenyx, a biomedical company, is building a new facility on the Bedford Woods campus and requires enlarged sewer mains to accommodate manufacturing.

The town has already received a $500,000 state MassWorks grant as project planning continues.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at, or 781-983-1763

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