Expensive paver could be sold for big loss

Posted at 11:31 PM, Mar 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-11 23:31:18-05

 The I-Team has been exposing issues with Tampa's paving department for more than a year, from secretaries collecting thousands of hours in overtime pay,  to issues that led to the resignation of the former paving supervisor.

 But despite recent improvements, we’ve learned the city is still not getting enough use out of expensive equipment taxpayers funded.

 The main controversy surrounds a $540,0000 top-of-the-line paving machine bought by the city in 2012.

“The existing paver could be considered a bit of a Cadillac,” said Jean Duncan, Director of Transportation and Stormwater Management.

 But an audit says that Cadillac spent too much time in the garage, being used less than half the time allowed under the warranty and maintenance agreement purchased by the city.

 “It's really too big to be a regular paver for most of the streets we control,” said Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez, who has called for an investigation.

 “How is it that we purchased this to begin with? I haven't gotten answers yet,” Suarez said.

 “It is what it is. The purchase was made a number of years ago,” said Duncan.

 The department bought the machine when Kenneth Holton was Paving Supervisor.

Holton resigned in late 2014, after a disciplinary report said he gave excessive overtime to his staff and even falsified his own time sheet.

Last year, the city appointed Jean Duncan to her current post.

“We did not find a specific cost benefit business plan,” Duncan said, regarding the paving machine.  

The machine was supposed to help repave many of the city's 2,800 miles of roadway.

According to the audit, the overall condition of Tampa's streets is considered poor.

During 2014, the paving machine logged only 723 of 1,500 possible hours.

“We have changed that situation, we have reassigned our crew to use that machine,” Duncan told the Tampa City Council in January.

That's true, the paving machine logged  283 more hours in 2015 than the year before, but it actually paved about 15,000 fewer square yards than it did in 2014.

Duncan says many factors could have played a role, including the complexity of the projects.

But Suarez believes the machine may be running more to justify its purchase.

“We shouldn't be continuing to run it, just to keep a warranty going,” Suarez said.

The city is considering selling the paver back to the vendor at a huge loss.

“There's probably something a little smaller scale that could probably get to do the job that we need,” said Duncan.

The city already has a smaller paver, bought in 2005.

Records show only it has only run 485 hours during the past decade, less than a week-and-a-half per year.

“I can't really explain why it was that it wasn't really used very much,” Duncan said.

Duncan says she's already made lots of changes, fixing most of the problems named in the audit.

“All i can say is we're gonna use the money we do get to the best extent possible,” Duncan said.

Suarez hopes the city learns from past mistakes.

“Where was the shortfall? Who made the mistake? Why did we do it this way?” asked Suarez.

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