Salt of Summit County
January 7, 2009
Every corporation that owns a vehicle fleet is going to have at least one staff mechanic. But what if the fleet includes lawnmowers, snowplows, buses, motorcycles and backhoes and the corporation is non-profit? And what if you need them to get to work or respond to a burglary?
The result is the team of mechanics at Park City Municipal Public Works. Someone has to be available any time of year, any time of day, for any type of machine.
With over 250 vehicles with odometers or engine-hour meters, and a plethora of smaller machines from weed-eaters to snow-blowers, the city fleet mechanics must rely on each other on their collective body of expertise to tackle the challenges presented on a daily basis.
"You never know what’s going to go," explained John Pearce, a 21-year veteran with the department.
Mechanics must be knowledgeable about hydraulics, electrical wiring, welding, computer diagnostics and everything involved with automobile and machine maintenance.
"It’s mostly on-the-job training. I’ve been here 25 years," said Larry Simpson.
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It takes about 18 months of full-time work with the shop before a new guy feels comfortable being on-call by himself. With police cruising all night and snowplows going 24-hours straight during a storm, the 15-person crew must take turns being on call.
If a snowplow blows a hydraulic line at the top of Aerie Drive at 3 a.m., one of the team-members has to come in, crawl underneath the vehicle dripping with mud and brine, replace or repair the 30 feet of stiff, wrist-sized hydraulic line and get that plow back on the road.
Although difficult, Pearce and Simpson said they love the challenges and variety their job provides.
If a bus stalls in the middle of Park Avenue and won’t start, Simpson said he’ll respond to the call trying to remember all 15 reasons a bus might not start. It’s stressful and nerve-wracking, and unsolved problems sometimes follow him home at night haunting him as he sleeps, but it’s also exciting to be doing something different every day.
Each of the city’s 30 buses needs an oil change about every 17 days, and all the police and city inspection vehicles every 3,000 or 4,000 miles. A whiteboard of requested repairs from tightening loose side mirrors to fixing broken horns await the crew every morning.
"There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure," Pearce said. "We just take it as it comes."
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