Brookfield trustees last week approved a pair of large budgeted capital expenditures but indicated that other such purchases may have to be delayed – perhaps until 2021 – as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to have an effect on revenue.

After some debate at the village board meeting on April 13 – attended virtually by four village trustees via the teleconferencing app Zoom – trustees voted unanimously to fund the purchase and installation of a new heating and air-conditioning system for the police department.

And, by a vote of 4 to 2, trustees agreed to purchase a new alley grader and trade in one the village purchased just a couple of years ago.

Arguing against both expenditures, although later voting in favor of the police department HVAC system, was Trustee Brian Conroy.

“With the amount of uncertainty going on, we don’t know how deep this rabbit hole goes,” Conroy said. “In my mind, anything outside of health and safety would be looked at as almost like discretionary spending, and I think should be shelved in the near term.”

But trustees were convinced to approve the $48,295 expenditure, with Village Manager Timothy Wiberg cautioning that the leaky, 21-year-old rooftop HVAC unit was not reliable any longer.

The reality is, the lifespan of these things are 15 to 20 years,” Wiberg said. “The problem with it is that it leaks refrigerant. We’re worried to charge it, because when you charge it, everything is under pressure and more leaks develop.”

If the system fails in a few months, said Wiberg, “Our police station will become really unusable in the heart of summer.”

Trustee Michael Garvey also argued that the expense was necessary, and that it amounted to a public safety issue.

“If the heating and air-conditioning goes out in the village hall police department and makes it unusable, then we have a problem,” Garvey said. “Gross School is not a permanent solution to staffing our people there. Police and fire is an essential service. I think this is something we have to get done.”

Trustee Nicole Gilhooley also argued for replacing the HVAC system now, saying a summer system outage would make the windowless space unusable.

“They’re essential workers and that could become a really not tenable environment to work in,” Gilhooley said. “It seems like a necessity to me.”

 There were two proposals for the job, with the lower of the two coming from Countryside-based Heat Engineering Company.

New alley grader on the way

Conroy, however, was not swayed by the majority’s arguments when it came to voting to spend $99,500 to purchase a 2020 Noram 65E Motor Grader, which will be used as the primary vehicle to grade the village’s 20 miles of gravel alleys.

Joining Conroy in wanting to delay the purchase was Trustee David LeClere, who said that “tough times call for tough measures.” Both voted no on buying the new grader from Livonia, Michigan-based Alta Equipment Company, which submitted the lowest of three bids.

“I’m not saying cancel it, but at least put it off until we have the visibility and have an idea of what the [COVID-19] impact is going to be to the village finances,” Conroy said.

However, with the Public Works Department left with one unreliable aging grader and another too big for about half of the village’s alleys, a majority of trustees favored trading in the too-large Case 845B grader purchased in January 2017 for about $180,600 and replacing it with a smaller, more maneuverable model.

The total cost of the new Noram grader will be $169,500, but the village will realize $70,000 by trading in the larger Case grader.

Public Works Director Carl Muell said the department has a smaller Champion grader, purchased in 2008, which it can continue to use to grade alleys. However, that grader is prone to breakdowns and getting parts for it from overseas takes time.

“I’ve had it out for two weeks [grading alleys this spring] and we’ve had issues getting it started and have issues keeping it running,” Muell said. “I’m afraid it probably won’t make it through the season.”

Delaying purchase of a new grader up to 60 days could result in the village failing to grade many of its alleys in 2020, which Muell and Wiberg cautioned against.

“Out of a total of 25 miles [of alleys], 20 are gravel in this town,” Muell said. “This piece of equipment, I would say, is vital to numerous residents that are going to benefit from it.

Muell instead suggested holding off on replacing the roof at the Public Works Department headquarters or the roof of the adjacent ESDA building, which is used for storage. The estimated cost for replacing those roofs is $165,000 and $110,000, respectively.

“This is alley grading season,” said Village President Kit Ketchmark, who also argued for buying the new grader. “This is one of those things, and we certainly hear about it from our residents, that their alleys aren’t passable if we don’t keep up on this. It seems like this is one of those essential services that we provide.”