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EDITORIAL: Pavement painting program sends more dollars out of Mason City



This news story was published on March 4, 2012.
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by Matt Marquardt –

MASON CITY – As the City of Mason City continues to downsize its staff and handle fewer maintenance jobs around the city than in past years, dollars are increasingly flowing out of the city.

For example, pavement marking and painting was a job that was once done by city employees, at a minimal cost.  Supplies were bought here in Mason City, a couple of workers did the job during the warm, dry days. Road Use Tax Funds, which typically cover the cost, were minimized for this project and likely spent elsewhere in upkeep of the roads.  The city got more accomplished with those dollars just by having trained staff and some equipment ready to go.  Stencils were made by city employees, and they carried a small paint machine around from site to site.

Since this work was “outsourced” to private companies, typically not from Mason City, the cost has went up and the dollars now flow out of Mason City.  Instead of those supplies being bought in the city, and workers from Mason City making a wage, the dollars have been paid to a company from Gilbert, Iowa, who has won the job bid the last three years:

Year – Contractor – Final Project Amount

2009 – Kam Line Highway Markings, Gilbert Iowa – $74,569.35
2010 – Kam Line Highway Markings, Gilbert Iowa – $86,288.77
2011 – Kam Line Highway Markings, Gilbert Iowa – $78,841.69

The 2012 Pavement Marking Program will cost the city an estimated $108,758.75.  The bidding process is underway now.

The trend of outsourcing city work to private companies is being accelerated by Mason City Mayor Eric Bookmeyer and some city council members like Travis Hickey.  Their next target will be privatizing the city-run trash hauling service.

Privatizing all the work and services the city once provided makes for less work and fewer headaches for city leaders (less employees to manage and delegate work to) but does it save the city money?  Judging from the pavement painting project, no.

UPDATE: After a google search and one click, equipment was found that can do almost all the pavement line painting in the city. Line painting concrete stripers run from $635 to $2995, and claim to be low maintenance and easy to operate. 

Click here to learn more.

Watch the video:

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44 Responses to EDITORIAL: Pavement painting program sends more dollars out of Mason City

  1. Our city counsel suck a big one Reply Report comment

    March 30, 2012 at 1:39 am

    I remember back when the city did paint the lines. (that’s when we had painted lines on the road) now that we pay a big company to doit im sure they use cheaper paint , charge use a but load of money, the paint last 2 weeks, and we pay them to come back paint them again, pay them the but Load of money again and yet again have no lines) THE CITY NEEDS TO PAINT OUR OWN LINES AGAIN.

    MY POINT IN ALL THIS IS: the city wants to out source our garbage so if that passes then the city takes the lowest bidder after one year the city sells all garabe trucks then the out sourced company jacks the price up so high it would be retarted but in the mean time the city can’t afford to go out and drop 3 million on new trucks and so on to take back the garbage.

    The money this city waste should be used to pay for doctor bills on getting our CITY COUNSILS HEADS EXAMINED!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. John Reply Report comment

    March 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    The painting should be done by our City workers here in town. The paint should be bought from our local stores.

    The paint job that was done last year on Monroe between 15th street NW and 19th street NW lasted a couple of weeks at best. People still can’t figure out where to drive on that area of the road today.

    One of my pet pieves is 12th street NW from Monroe to Pierce in both directions, east and west. If you watch the drivers in both directions in that area, 80% of the drivers are driving right over top of the yellow line and it wears off very quickley. Some of the wear is the drivers fault! Hello, stay to the right of the yellow line!

  3. Watcher Reply Report comment

    March 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    The city employees you need are down at Big Blue. Two per vehicle an hour apart. They drive in, watch the water fowl and drive off. Just saw 4 of them.

  4. Intirgued Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Mr. Marquardt. With what I have read you have said to use existing workers to keep them busy. You have also said to train workers at $15 a hour. If you hire new employees to do this. Lets say 3 workers. Your are looking at 30,000 a year jobs ad 10,000 a year for benefit your have just invested 120,000 to the budget with wages and benefit. You add in the cost of a vehicle, paint equipment, and paint and materials you could add another 30,000 a year to that. Now you are up to 150,000 a year. That is if you go by the 15.00 dollar scale if you use current employees to keep busy as you say then you are over 20.00 dollars a hour. Which drives the cost up even more. Intrigued to hear your thoughts.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Dear “Intirgued” (is that a word?) you are again mis-reading my statements. I advocated for using temp workers like the parks department uses. They are seasonal employees. Or, existing workers could be trained to do the work. Keeping them very busy with a diverse skill set is JOB SECURITY for them, as the mayor and others want to LEAN away city workers. It helps them keep their jobs. I never advocated for hiring full-time employees just to paint lines. It is seasonal work. Get it?

      • Joe Reply Report comment

        March 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm

        Matt, do you know what the city did with all the painting equipment they used to use?

        • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

          March 5, 2012 at 11:35 pm

          As I understand it, that equipment is long gone. The city quit painting some years ago. I think they would need new equipment like that in the video I added to the story (it is not expensive). Stencils could be made easily. Deals could be made with a local paint store. Thought and initiative from city hall would be required to make it happen… don’t hold your breath.

  5. Life Long Resident Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    According to those figures, that leaves at the least $105,763.75 and at the most $108,123.75. That will buy a lot of fricking paint and supplies!!! And you are going to pay the city workers reguardless. But the best reward would be lines year around!!!! While on this subject, why does the city tip it’s hand as to what they expect to pay?? You wouldn’t go to a car dealer and tell them right up front how much you expect to pay. Now they know what the market will bear. Why not keep the engineers’ estimate closed until the bids are read?? Only makes sense.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      The city is required to generate an estimate of probable cost for all large purposes and by law this information must be made public.

  6. Echo Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    This is a no brainer the city should be doing line painting themselves. The City use to do this type of painting so they should still have the equipment. Just think how many more streets we could have done a year if this work was done in house.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Every dollar possible in the city budget should be spent locally. It is alarming to me that our esteemed mayor, administrator and council take virtually no time to research ways to do this. People of Mason City deserve better than they are getting.

      • msgordy Reply Report comment

        March 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm

        Matt- I might be wrong but I think that the city has to take out bids and go with the lowest one? I know this was discussed quite a while ago when it was brought up at a council meeting. It seemed a local business wasn’t happy because an outside contractor got the job. Correct me if I’m wrong but they have to take the lowest bid to save taxpayer funds??

  7. Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Junior, I will be very interested to read your arguments after watching the above video. I think my case is made.

  8. Junior Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Matt. No you did not hit a nerve here. Just wanting the facts. So if the expensive equipment is not needed. What is the cost of cheaper and less expensive equipment needed to do the job also. Plus then you have to add in time and materials. If the same equipment is not used I would think it would take alot longer to do the same work.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm

      I would argue that a couple of city workers, properly trained, could do the work during dry, warm days. They could be paid about $15 per hour. They would use a city vehicle to get around. They would use their own stencils or they could be purchased and stored (cheap). For most work they could use the same equipment as they used 15 years ago, a 2.5 gallon paint sprayer. They could do most of the work much, much cheaper than the company the city is hiring ($65 to paint a white directional arrow??) Street line painting may need other equipment, I was told it was not overly expensive and could be used year after year.
      Now you are saving the city money and keeping exisitng staff employed, busy and productive. You are purchasing paint and other materials here in town. I realize times change but this is the kind of out of the box thinking our mayor, council and city administrator are not bringing to the table.

      • Junior Reply Report comment

        March 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm

        Matt. I think your figures are off. I don’t know of any city workers that work for $15 dollars a hour. Even the custodian makes more than $15 dollars a hour. If our current council and Mayor brought your current proposal up they would be bashed for being anti labor and against the union. You should ask the people you talked to if they would be willing to do this for $15 an hour I think the answer you would get would not be well received. Plus you would have them spray all the lines and curbs around in town with a 2.5 gallon sprayer. I don’t think what you are saying is practical.

      • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

        March 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm

        Junior: A short google search provided links to scores of companies who offer concrete line painting equipment at very low cost. See the link and video above.
        As for people working for $15 per hour… you say no one would do that, I disagree.

    • Observer Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      The cost of equipment is not accounted for in one year, but over the life of it’s service. Labor is static based on man/hours. Materials is the biggest variable. And that would take a lot of research to meet what we need (paint versus therm omplastics, formula, drier, glass/ceramic beads, ect).

      3M for example makes a very good paint with reflectorization built in, no mixing.

    • Life Long Resident Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      A 2.5 gallon sprayer is about the size of what was used. The long edge lines and yellow lines like out on 12th st. were always farmed out. If the truth be known the city most likely still has the equipment. Unless it was stored in Mark’s office how would he ever know. Besides with his wifes problems he can’t fully concentrate on his city job!!

  9. Life Long Resident Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Mark Rahm pulls a number out of the air (100k) and everyone believes him. But mission accomplished, they shut up. The city should definitly be painting the lines. If this was something that Mark wanted, I’m sure that equipment would be much cheaper.

    • Junior Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 7:15 am

      Life Long Resident. I would think that if this was such a good deal for the city to do and a taxsavings to the taxpayer. Bill Stangler would bring this forward because his guys would be the ones doing the work. Bill Stangler does a good job of working with his employees and also looking out for the taxpayer. So I would think if Bill thought his crew could do this and save the city money in the long run he would bring this forward.

      • Had it up to here Reply Report comment

        March 5, 2012 at 11:07 am

        Who is to say Mr. Stangler didn’t bring it forward. He likely did that some time ago, and was told to get in line by Beermongrel and Trowt or they would have his job. Don’t you know half the city hall workers keep a diary of all their interactions with our mayor, they write everything down, to build a case to protect their jobs later. Just ask around and se if its true.

  10. Junior Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2012 at 5:45 am

    Matt. The painting projects had been outsourced way before the current council had taken over. I am sure the previous councils did it to save on buying equipment. Didn’t councilman Kuhn ask about this and Mark Rahm said the equipment would cost over $100,000 dollars.

    Also I don’t think the current council has outsourced any jobs. All they have asked for is to looking into taking bids to find out what is the best value for the taxpayer. That is what they should be doing in the first place. If sanitation can do it lets cheaper than a waste management then by all means keep it within the city. When you have sanitation workers. Working six hour shifts and getting paid for ten hour shifts plus benefits and cost of equipment they might not be the best value for the taxpayers.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Junior: First of all thank you for the comment.
      Please let me point out that I never blamed the current council for this outsource. Yes, Kuhn asked, in a very nice way, about the equipment cost and Mr. Rahm gave an answer of over $100,000. If Mr. Kuhn really cared about giving this work to local people and keeping the dollars in MC, he would have done his homework and had a rebuttal, but as he explained, he was “too busy.”
      Secondly, Mr. Rahm would likely want no part of watching over this painting project. It is much easier to just write a huge check to some out of town company than to go out to the job sites and check the work being done. So he gave Kuhn a huge number. This is the new trend in city government: Do not stretch dollars if it involves doing some work and sweating a little. Writing a check is much easier.

      • Junior Reply Report comment

        March 5, 2012 at 11:25 am

        Matt So you are saying that Mr. Rahm was lying and you know that the cost of equipment was lower than a 100,000 dollars. So if that is the case what does the machinery cost being that you have done your homework. Please enlighten us with your homework before you make your accusations.

      • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

        March 5, 2012 at 11:46 am

        Junior, I did my homework. I talked to people who literally did the job. As far as calling Mr. Rahm a liar, I did no such thing. He can quote any cost he wants when standing up at the podium; the figure of $100,000 would match any estimate on paper he might create later. He mentioned expensive equipment, I am told this is not needed. Seems like I touched on a nerve with you… interesting…

  11. Joe Reply Report comment

    March 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    WHY did the city snow plows go down my street at 3pm and at 3:45pm today when we had a dusting of snow and it melted as it hit. There was NOTHING TO PLOW and being Sunday, I’m sure they were paid overtime. What a waste of money!

    • Life Long Resident Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 6:42 am

      The plows you are talking about are sanders. They have belly scrapers on them. So when they are sanding, they are usually plowing. But no matter what, it’s a thankless job.

      • Joe Reply Report comment

        March 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

        WRONG! I know the the difference between a snow plow and a sander. The PLOWS went by twice and a few hours later a sander did the corner intesection. Plowing yesterday was a waste of money.

  12. Echo Reply Report comment

    March 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    City employees should be doing all the line painting in town. When city employees do this type of work it keeps tax dollars in Mason City and helps support local bus.

  13. Susan Whiezel Reply Report comment

    March 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    This artical took time and research; thank you NIT. You will not see these articles in the local paper. What is the excuss to out source this work?

  14. Joe Reply Report comment

    March 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    This should be done by city employees, as it was for many years. I know we have the manpower and it wouldn’t cost use anymore. Believe me, they could work it in. More tax dollars & less service. I also agree that we have NO NEED for a city administrator and most dept. heads are way over paid.

    • Help Reply Report comment

      March 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm

      Do a study and see how many supervisors there are compared to employees in each department with in the city. Turn some of the supervisors into employees (laborers) and a lot of work may not need to be outsourced. The city does have some great employees; they are just underutilized because of supervisor pride and arrogance.

      • Joe Reply Report comment

        March 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

        and just try and get a city job. They have a buddy system. They have to post the job opening but it most always goes to family or friends of city staff.

    • Katie Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      I thought the City’s answer was that they would need a new truck to do the work and that wasn’t in the budget.

  15. MC Driver Reply Report comment

    March 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    What I want to know is why the roads have to be painted so often in town. The Target intersection, 12th Street by Kraft and Caseys, and the overpasses are examples of what I mean. Those areas get painted and then the paint wears off really quickly. I don’t remember this happening so quickly when the city crews did it, but maybe it did or they just repainted more often. It just seems odd how the stuff wears off so quickly now.

    • anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 4, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      These areas are high traffic areas where the City or DOT uses a lot of salt and/or sand. Tires combined with sand act like sand paper and the paint wears off faster. Street marking paint used to have lead in it. Lead was used to greatly increase the durability of the paint. Now you can’t use it because the lead would leach off and enter the water supply. The Iowa DOT is always doing marking tests. There are several places in Iowa where highways have test stripes painted across the lanes as a durability. Regardless of who does the painting, durability is an issue. I was not born in Mason City so maybe I shouldn’t comment, but when I first came here the only place where painting was done was on 65 and 122 and it was done by the state. The City didn’t do any painting until they got rid of Dirk Jablonski as City Engineer. Then they started painting again.

    • cerwin Reply Report comment

      March 4, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      McDriver that is what low bid gets you. When the lines were painted on Monroe by the YMCA, the roads were wet. some areas were gone in a week. These companie are here to make money and thats it. If there work lasted any amount of time the would not be making as much money. All they have to worry about is being the low bid.
      Fun Fact you should know. Mr Hickey was raised on your tax dollars from the department he is trying to get rid of.

    • dog owner Reply Report comment

      March 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Cheap paint probably from China, poor surface cleaning/prep- the paint get slap dashed on dusty or damp asphalt, and it just flakes off just like painting metal that has some oil on it.

    • Observer Reply Report comment

      March 5, 2012 at 4:41 am

      Not all paint is created equal. Adding to it, the lack of prep on the surface, and you have a short lived result. A great example is on islands or medians. They keep spraying over chipped paint that has built up over the years, some nearly ¼ thick. They spray weeds and dust. There are places where they failed to control the flow of glass beads, and the result was poor bonding paint.

      And one cannot tell if there is follow-up, or supervision, both from the city, and the contractor. Is there a process for that?

      Also one can ask, is there any worth in mixing in glass beads? When was the last time you saw even fresh markings look reflectorized? Is it’s use mandated by US or Iowa DOT? Is the cost justified?

  16. Bookie. Reply Report comment

    March 4, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    They had one heck of a worker, retired now, that did that for the City. Amongst other duties. I’m sure he wasn’t costing the City that much with wages and benefits. Plus he worked on other City projects as well.

    • Cassandra Reply Report comment

      March 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      Hey Bookie, you don’t care a whiff about this town or this worker so don’t act like it. You met my friend three times and couldn’t remember her name! She still talks about it!

  17. Ex-mayor Reply Report comment

    March 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    It stands to reason: fewer employees means less need for a city administrator. Not that one is needed now.

  18. Former MC Resident Reply Report comment

    March 4, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Matt,

    Great piece. I’m so thankful that I don’t live in MC anymore because some of the decisions that are made still have my head shaking. Keep up the good work!