Houston & Peach

Houston buys a pricey machine

A Caterpillar 826K like the one Houston County is purchasing is shown in operation.
A Caterpillar 826K like the one Houston County is purchasing is shown in operation.

Packing a mound of trash might seem like a simple enough task, but it takes an expensive piece of equipment to do it.

The Houston County Commission at its last meeting voted to buy a new compactor for the landfill, a 2017 Caterpillar 826K, at a cost of $668,194. It’s the most expensive piece of equipment that the county owns. One reason for the cost is the weight, which is 45 tons.

“It’s just a lot of iron,” said Robbie Dunbar, the county operations director. “Even the wheels are a maze of iron.”

The machine has just one job, which is to roll back and forth over garbage dumped out by trucks until the trash is packed as tightly as possible. A landfill is expensive to construct and get permits for, Dunbar said.

“You’ve got to squeeze every bit of volume that you can get,” he said.

The landfill has two compactors, both of which are old. One is being traded in for the new one and other will remain in service, although it will likely have to be replaced in the near future as well.

Dunbar said the county has more than gotten its money’s worth out of the trade-in, a 2001 Cat 826K. It has more than 22,000 service hours.

“That’s unheard of,” Dunbar said.

Ordinarily a compactor would have to get a full engine and hydraulics rebuild at or before 10,000 hours, which the trade-in has gotten. A second rebuild isn’t considered cost effective due to metal fatigue, so the machine generally would be expected to last around 15,000 hours, Dunbar said.

The county won’t be getting the new one until about August. The contract calls for it to be delivered in 10 to 12 weeks.

Yancey actually had the higher of two bids. Humdinger Equipment, a Texas company, bid $642,175 for a Tana E520 ECO. Both bids included a trade-in allowance for the old compactor and a 5-year total warranty. However, the county staff recommended approval of the Yancey bid because Humdinger Equipment does not have a service location in Georgia.

Tax dollars are not used to buy the equipment. The landfill is a self funded operation and fees charged to dump there pay all operational costs.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1