Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hefty grader repair bill follows possible vandalism

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 1/18/2013

Possible mischief brought a hefty price tag for the county.

Nearly $26,000 in damage to the engine of a Franklin County motor grader led to a police report and prompted the county’s public works department to adopt a new procedure for storing its grader. A construction machine with a long blade used to create a flat surface on roadways, the grader was found to have major mechanical problems Jan. 2, Jim Haag, county public works director, said. The problems are such, he said, that they could not have been caused by chance.

Possible mischief brought a hefty price tag for the county.

Nearly $26,000 in damage to the engine of a Franklin County motor grader led to a police report and prompted the county’s public works department to adopt a new procedure for storing its grader. A construction machine with a long blade used to create a flat surface on roadways, the grader was found to have major mechanical problems Jan. 2, Jim Haag, county public works director, said. The problems are such, he said, that they could not have been caused by chance.

“There is a police report that’s been taken, and we will be forwarding that and the bill for the repairs to the county’s insurance company,” Haag said.

Because of the unusually large number of repairs needed, Haag said, the repairs were not covered under warranty. The damage did not appear to be caused by abnormal use or a machine defect, he said.

The county’s shop foreman and a mechanic for Cat, the grader manufacturer, examined the grader and found ice in the sediment bowl and primary and secondary filters. The mechanics, Haag said, replaced the filters, but it was determined that more repairs were warranted. The grader was taken to Foley Tractor, Topeka, where disassembly indicated damage to the injectors, pistons, turbocharger, valves and all six cylinders.

The grader typically is parked at the quarry off 15th Street, east of Ottawa. Damage to other equipment not belonging to the county has been reported at the quarry, Lisa Johnson, county administrator and counselor, said.

“This the first time we ever had an issue of this nature,” Johnson said.

County officials stopped short of labeling the incident as vandalism. It is speculation, Johnson said, that the county’s equipment was damaged on purpose.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 Wednesday to approve the cost of the repairs. The repairs, quoted at costing $25,916.58, will include a new long block and turbocharger for the machine.

The county’s insurance provider, Kansas County Association Multiline Pool, is expected to cover the majority of the cost of repairs, Johnson said.

Foley Tractor has provided the county with a loaner grader. Once the grader is repaired and returned, Haag said, it will be kept inside the locked fence of the county’s yard when not in use. 

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