The City Council approved buying a new jetter/vacuum for sewer cleaning. The city has been using the same jetter since 1993. The addition of a vacuum will let the city respond to more calls without relying on a contractor, the public works director said.

Boonville Public Works will get a new sewer cleaning truck after the Boonville City Council approved the purchase Tuesday night.

The new truck is a Vactor model 2103 combination jetter/vacuum mounted on an International MV Series two-wheel-drive chassis. It should be more reliable than the 25-year-old jetter the city is using now, and the addition of a vacuum will let public works crews do things they couldn’t before, Boonville Public Works Director M.L. Cauthon said.

The sewer jetter Boonville currently uses is a Harben jetter mounted on a Ford chassis. The city bought it new in 1993 and has made major repairs that sometimes take it out of service.

The jetter is used daily for routine cleaning on heavily-used sanitary sewer lines, and to clear sewer main clogs and back-ups. The city has responded to 134 emergency sewer calls in a little less than three years, Cauthon said.

“Those are the calls where someone has sewer backing up in their basement in the middle of the night,” Cauthon said.

He said that even though that’s a high number, the city has reduced the number of emergencies by routinely cleaning heavily-used lines with the jetter. It may not be flashy or cool, but the jetter is a fact of life, Cauthon said.

“It’s critical so you can have that flush and forget security,” he said.

The city will buy the combination jetter/vacuum truck from combination Scheppers International Truck Center in Jefferson City for $269,964.51. The wastewater fund, which is mostly made up of sewer user fees, will pay for $120,000. The other $150,000 will be released from a reserve account the city was required to keep until it paid off a $5.7 million bond issue from 1996.

The city paid off that bond, which it borrowed to pay for wastewater improvements. Now the funds can now be used for anything related to wastewater, like the truck, Assistant to the City Administrator Kate Fjell said.

Councilman Morris Carter asked Cauthon about using a contractor instead of buying a jetter. Cauthon said the city uses a contractor for larger jobs, but it wouldn’t work to rely only on them.

One job can cost $800 to $1,000, and the contractor’s big vacuum trucks can’t maneuver around some of Boonville’s streets as well as the city’s smaller truck.

The contractor also lives in Jefferson City, which can be a problem for emergency calls. He said there was an emergency backup in the middle of the night a little over a year ago. The clog ended up being more than the city’s jetter could handle, so they called the contractor. He responded right away, but took a while to get up from Jefferson City.

“So we’re standing out there in the middle of Sixth Street with sewer backing up, and we’re now waiting another two hours,” he said.

The new jetter/vacuum should be able to handle most of the calls the city has been using contractors for, along with routine maintenance to limit emergencies, Cauthon said. The city will also be able to respond to areas the contractor can’t, he said.

The Vactor pump the city is buying uses interlocking gears turn to pull sewage through. It’s called a rotary positive displacement pump. It also has a hose that works like the city’s old jetter, spraying a high-pressure water jet to clear blockages and clean pipes.

When public works crews respond to a severe backup, they sometimes find the manhole filled with water, Cauthon said. With just the jetter, they have to put the hose into the water and search around blindly for the sewer pipe so they can get the hose in there and clear it out. If that doesn’t work, they have to call a contractor to come pump out the water, he said. With the vacuum on the new truck, they can just pump the water out themselves instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

The new truck also provides a safer way to excavate around fiber-optic cables running underground. Crews can use the water jet to soften the earth, then pump out the mud with the vacuum, Cauthon said. It’s safer and easier to go around cables that way than by digging, he said. The vacuum will also give public works a better way to clean out blockages in stormwater inlets, he said. Now, the best they can do is send someone down to clear out blockages.

Cauthon has been looking into replacing the city’s jetter for years. After a lot of research, he said the Vactor jetter/vacuum had the best combination of features of the options he saw, and it had a reputation for being reliable. He went with the international chassis because the city has experience buying several dump trucks from Scheppers International Truck Center in Jefferson City, Cauthon said.

Another reason Cauthon chose this combination is that both Vactor and International are vendors with Sourcewell, a State of Minnesota agency that does cooperative purchasing services to government agencies.

Buying through Sourcewell was a better choice for the new truck because all the options and features available would have made an open bid too complicated, Cauthon said. If Cauthon wrote up specifications for the truck and opened a bid, he said he wouldn’t expect any to cover all the bases he wanted.

Sourcewell negotiates agreements with vendors, and then allows municipalities to buy from the vendor based on the set terms of the agreement. The city is buying the complete unit for $269,964.51. A similar Vacall/International combination unit was quoted for $298,528 at the Springfield-area Truck Component Services, according to an invoice included in the council packet.

The dealer told Cauthon a few weeks ago that the truck could be ready around June. Cauthon doesn’t know the fate of the old jetter yet but said he’s looked into some options. He didn’t want to get too far in the process of unloading it before he knew he was getting the new one. His research hasn’t been too promising, he said. Both truck dealers and municipal equipment dealers have told him the jetter doesn’t have trade-in value due to its age.