LINCOLN, Maine — Paul Bolstridge is a good, self-taught mechanic who sometimes spends as many as 25 hours a week repairing town plow trucks, but the 31-year-old Lincoln Public Works Department employee gets the same $15.50 per hour the other town driver-laborers get, his boss says.
Department Director David Lloyd is searching for an outside agency to handle vehicle maintenance and save taxpayer money. He and Town Manager Lisa Goodwin doubt that a repair business or savings can be found, but if they are, a new garage a town committee is designing could be cut to a single vehicle bay.
“We could go to one bay but farm out maintenance, except for the most simple things,” Goodwin said. But “that would be an interruption of [snow plowing] service [to taxpayers]. If it’s the middle of the night and the truck breaks down, will there be a mechanic to come get that vehicle and fix it? That is just one option we’re considering.”
So far, Lloyd said, “There’s really nobody in the area that could provide 24-hour service in wintertime. Unfortunately, wintertime is when we need the service the most,” he said. “In summer if I have a truck break down, it’s no big deal, but in wintertime I need to get them [plow trucks] out there.”
Driver-laborers Bolstridge, Tim Hardy and Jason Courson do the most mechanic work and have done some big jobs, Lloyd said, including brake replacements, one engine rebuild and transmission work. Lloyd occasionally subcontracts a mechanic, but usually in winter, when the drivers face exhaustion due to plowing.
“I’ve done hydraulic hoses, fixed suspension parts, done a little bit of motor engine overhaul,” Bolstridge said. “I like doing it. Some of what we get is warranty work, and that goes back to the dealership, but about 90 percent of what breaks is fixed by us.”
“I am more of a nuts-and-bolts kind of guy, and this gives me something else to do, breaks up the job,” he added. “It is just another skill that I can use here and in further endeavors.”
The committee has pared down the latest garage design to fit an estimated bottom-line cost of about $970,000. That design features four bays, including a wash bay and lubrication pit, plus office, break room and parts storage areas, members have said.
The new garage’s original design cost $2.4 million, but a virtual taxpayer revolt against the price and its impact on taxes by some of the town’s business owners convinced Town Council members that less garage would be preferable. The business owners said profits, property values and government services have declined, taxes have risen and the town’s population is static. Councilors also rejected a $1.5 million garage plan on Oct. 27.
The department has seven full-time workers, 15 vehicles, and an annual parts and maintenance budget of $50,000, of which about $40,000 is spent in wintertime, Lloyd and Bolstridge said.
“We haven’t farmed out much equipment [for repair]. We tried to do everything in house,” Lloyd said. “Each one of my guys all have their own special talents as mechanics.”
“As the equipment gets older, it requires more maintenance,” he added.