OXFORD — Oxford’s Highway Department has recently received several boosts that it expects will increase worker safety, expand its services and improve productivity.

Saddled with a 30-year-old road grader with mounting, five-figure repair estimates and a backhoe that no longer wanted to work, Oxford’s Highway Department was recently given the green light to replace its aging equipment with new machines that will make life easier for crews and improve services to residents.

Oxford’s Highway Department doing ditch maintenance on Rabbit Valley Road with its new excavator. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

The town’s backhoe has been replaced with a new Takeuchi excavator, supplied by Anderson Equipment of Gorham. The department also purchased a new equipment trailer from Beauregard Equipment in Scarborough. The combined price of the excavator and Interstate trailer was $142,857.

The excavator came with several implements that make it much more versatile than the backhoe.

“The excavator has a flail mower, it’s a mulching head that will allow us to cut all kinds of brush along the roads,” said Department Foreman Jim Bennett. “It’s been work we haven’t been able to really do before. It grinds it right up, not chips but shreds. We’ll be able to do miles of road brush cutting.

“Compared to sending the crew out with chainsaws, this is way safer, way more productive. I was fortunate the Board allowed us to buy that. We also got a five-foot ditching bucket that tilts and allows better angles. And a digging bucket.”

Roland Gagne of the Oxford Highway Department grading Old County Road. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

The grader went down with multiple problems last summer. Bennett had told the Select Board the grader was continually need repairs, with the most recent issues estimated to cost the town more than $30,000. The cost of a brand new one could run as much as a half million dollars, with used ones rarely available on the retail market. In September the Board approved Bennett’s request to lease a John Deere excavator.

“We’ve been really fortunate that the Select Board and town manager have been really supportive,” said Bennett. “They recognize that these were past due. We just kept dumping money into them and we were at the point that we had to stop that.”

Oxford Highway Department’s 2020 Freightliner dump truck, new equipment trailer and new sand screen. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

The new equipment joins the town’s fleet of five dump/plow trucks, the newest one being a 2020 Freightliner purchased last winter. The town also has a one ton and a pick-up truck for snow plowing.

Bennett said each employee is assigned to a truck. Roland Gagne is the grader operator and Chuck Bixby runs the excavator.  Crew members are responsible for the condition of their equipment.

“The equipment, whoever is assigned to it, it’s their job to keep it clean,” Bennett explained. “They have a daily checklist for it. They report to me anything wrong and we get it serviced.

“With regular maintenance, the excavator should last 15-20 years and the grader is good for 30. Same with the trailer, keep the decking treated to preserve it, it will last a long time.”

Along with the acquisition of it new equipment, the Highway Department also just started using its new sand screen, fabricated in-house. Bennett said one of his crew members, Bruce Young, did the welding on it. It was finished just in time, as sand is currently being delivered ahead of winter.

“We’re getting in 4,500 yards of sand for winter right now and we treat it with salt ourselves,” said Bennett. “We know it’s [winter] coming. Unfortunately.”

 

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