Saturday, December 01, 2018

Benedetti Phoenix Buyback Date Looms

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela provided information on the city's road repair portfolio in his 2017 State of the City address.  Valenzuela highlighted the city's Benedetti Phoenix which enables city crews to rehabilitate certain San Angelo streets.  :

Asphalt Recycler Picks up Steam: Once proficient on the operation of the new recycling machinery, the crews will move to N. Chadbourne from 29th Street to 43rd Street. Chadbourne Street from Loop 306 to 29th will be reconstructed in 2018-2019 and the asphalt recycler will extend the pleasurable driving experience to 43rd Street. From there, the City will systematically work its way across town with a focus on the roadways identified as needing mill-and-overlay in the 2015 street assessment.
A related e-mail from Assistant Operations Director Patrick Freyrich stated:

Asphalt Recycling: The new Benedetti Phoenix asphalt recycler that Council approved in November 2016 arrived in San Angelo in July 2017 and City crews began the training process on Rio Concho Drive shortly thereafter. Through research and discussions with engineers and users across multiple countries, asphalt recycling provides an option to improve the condition of our street surfaces as well as provide a smoother, more pleasant drive for the traveling public. At just a fraction of the per-square-yard cost of the alternative mill-and-overly or reconstruction options, asphalt recycling could allow the City to improve roadways that may not have been repaired beyond seal coating every eight years. Our crews have been working hard learning the proper operation and techniques that meet our expectations. The learning curve has been greater than anticipated, but we are being meticulous about ensuring we get a great final product and still expect the asphalt recycling project to meet our expectations. In addition to saving bond money that can be reassigned to other reconstruction projects, this process is expected to provide a better ride for travelers and a roadway that is protected from further deterioration.
In the first week of operation city staff experienced at least one fireball and two members of the HIPAR crew quit.  City documents reported:

Our first accident happened on Day 3. As the crew was performing the end-of-day cleaning, diesel was sprayed on the plant that was still too hot from the day’s operation and ignition occurred. The fireball engulfed an employee that was cleaning the screed augers, but thankfully no serious injuries occurred.

At the beginning of Day 5, two of the original crew (screed operator and hand operator) opted to leave the HIPAR crew. The reason given by both was due to the amount of smoke from the operation. 
We had substantial flame-ups that came from, it was later discovered, our end-of-day shutdown procedures. Apparently, at the end of the day, diesel was liberally sprayed on the Recycler components to rid them of asphalt. This resulted in a lot of diesel running onto the roadway and soaking in. As such, when the Preheater and Recycler crossed those areas the residual diesel ignited and flames engulfed the machines. The hand crew worked hard to cover the enflamed areas with sand, but it was a losing battle. The end-of-day cleaning changed from using diesel as a cutting agent to scraping the bulk of the asphalt off by hand and lightly misting the augers, mill, and plant with diesel to break down any remaining asphalt.
During Spring 2018 budget sessions City Council discussed staffing issues with the Benedetti Phoenix and implemented pay changes intended to retain trained staff.  The city took another crack at utilizing the equipment. Crews worked on Era Street from May-July.

City documents show their specialized street crew used the Benedetti Phoenix only four of the last thirteen months.  Statistics indicate the city did only 0.6 lane miles far less than projected breakeven amount.

The manufacturer expressed their desire for San Angelo to be a showcase site for the impact of their equipment.  Certainly the need is here given the city's poor track record in street maintenance.  Citizens feel decades of under investment every time we get behind the wheel.

City Council will undertake whether to keep the asphalt recycling equipment or ask the manufacturer to buy it back.  That decision needs to be made in December 2018.

The public deserves to hear from responsible parties City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and Executive Director of Public Works Ricky Dickson on this item.

Update 1-13-19:  City staff plan to provide Council an update on the Benedetti machine.  They made this commitment at the 1-8-19 City Council meeting.

Update 1-19-19:  Staff recommends City Council exercise the buyback provision in their upcoming meeting.

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