Shawnee County seeks bids to replace trash trucks, including one destroyed in fire

The Shawnee County Commission voted Thursday to seek bids to replace seven refuse trucks, including this one destroyed in a fire last week. (Submitted/Maura Fitzgerald)

A raging blaze that destroyed a Shawnee County refuse truck last week was caught on video by that department.

 

“If anyone saw that video, they know how frightening that was for our employees,” Shawnee County Commission chairman Bob Archer said Thursday morning.

“We were very lucky that no one was seriously injured,” said Commissioner Shelly Buhler.

Trash Truck fire video, courtesy of Shawnee County.

Video from our Phil Anderson from the trash truck fire in downtown Topeka on July 12, 2017.

Commissioners Archer, Buhler and Kevin Cook voted 3-0 to authorize the solid waste department to seek bids to replace that rear-loader truck and six others the county acquired at the same time or earlier.

Tom Vlach, director of the county’s solid waste and public works departments, said he thought last week’s fire occurred because of a mechanical failure, but the cause remained under investigation.

“I am not comfortable having these trucks in our fleet anymore,” Vlach told commissioners.

The county on Thursday afternoon released to The Topeka Capital-Journal a copy of the refuse department’s video of last week’s fire.

The solid waste department’s operational budget contains sufficient money to cover the estimated $1.1 million cost to replace the trucks, he said.

“I don’t think we can afford not to replace them,” Vlach said.

Thursday’s move marked the first step toward replacing two rear-loader refuse trucks the county acquired in 2010 and five it got in 2012. One truck from the latter group was destroyed in last week’s fire, Vlach said.

Another rear-loader truck the county acquired during that time period was destroyed in a fire in 2013, he said.

Last week’s blaze began about 6:45 a.m. July 12 in the 1000 block of S.E. Quincy. It sent thick, black smoke into the air and set off several loud explosions.

By the time the fire was out, only a black shell remained at the front of the truck. The rear portion of the truck also was severely damaged. The truck’s tires had melted into the street.

Vlach provided commissioners an estimate that the $1.1 million cost of replacing the seven trucks would include $1.4 million — or $200,000 each for the seven trucks — offset by the $300,000 trade-in value of the remaining trucks.

Cook noted that the money used to acquire the trucks will come not from property taxes but from user fees assessed by the solid waste department.

Commissioners on Thursday also:Voted 3-0 to appoint Cook and Buhler as the commission’s voting delegates for the Kansas Association of Counties’ annual conference Nov. 14-16 in Overland Park.

Voted 3-0 to cancel the Aug. 7 commission meeting, which would have occurred the day commissioners plan to meet as the county’s board of canvassers to canvass votes from the city of Topeka’s Aug. 1 mayoral primary election, and to cancel their Nov. 16 meeting because of the KAC conference.

Voted 3-0 to enter into a supplemental agreement to the county’s contract with the Kansas Department of Transportation clarifying the county’s financial participation responsibilities for projects in which it receives federal aid regarding pin and hanger and fracture critical member bridges, underwater foundation inspection and element level data collection.

Voted 3-0 to approve a request from the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams seeking permission to place signs at five selected locations along county-maintained roadways notifying people when they are entering the Upper Wakarusa Watershed. The move will come at no cost to the county except in terms of labor and equipment to install the signs, Vlach said.

Heard Vlach say the county’s project to build a new Willard Bridge is more than 90 percent complete. The replacement bridge is being built almost 3 miles north of Interstate 70 on N.W. Carlson Road, the boundary between Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties.

Met behind closed doors in executive session to receive legal advice linked to a potential economic development incentive.

Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.

Trash truck catches fire, sets off explosions in vehicle, Wednesday morning in downtown Topeka
 

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