Caterpillar? That was the burning question Tuesday as Bulloch County Commissioners listened to arguments from representatives of both companies as to why their product would be the best motor grader for the county.
Commissioners tabled the decision until a work session planned for Tuesday, June 9, in order to further review information about each motor grader. The Caterpillar motor grader would cost $46,233 more than the John Deere product submitted for the bid.
Bulloch County Transportation Director Eddie Smith recommended commissioners purchase a Caterpillar 140M all-wheel drive motor grader, telling them the motor grader is more suitable for the county's needs, and said the John Deere 672G grader submitted for bid did not meet county specifications.
However, John Deere representative Mark Flanders, with International Tractor Company, disagreed.
Smith said the John Deere motor grader Flanders submitted for bid was lower in horsepower. " I don't feel ( the motor grader) is a good comparison for what we do here," he said. " ... I am not convinced the (John Deere) would do the job the Caterpillar would do."
Commissioner Roy Thompson shared research he conducted himself about the two motor graders, and said he found a slight difference between the engine sizes: The John Deere 672G has a 9 liter engine, while the Caterpillar 140M has a 7.2 liter engine, he said.
Thompson compared torque rise ( 72 percent for the John Deere 672G and 39 percent for the Caterpillar 140M), and explained torque rise has to do with " how well an engine transfers available horsepower."
The John Deere 672G outweighs the Caterpillar 140M, by 4,652 pounds, he said.
Thompson said he could not find a difference between the two that was worth spending the extra cash for the Caterpillar.
"I look at all that... can we afford $46,233 for that extra three horsepower?" he said. "I don't care whether it's a caterpillar of John Deere, it's the economy of Bulloch County that concerns me."
Smith reiterated he felt the John Deere 672G was not quite what the county had asked for in letting bids.
"I agree with you - John Deere has a fine product, and we had a 672G at one time," he said. " I just want to make sure it can do the job. It's not equal if it is less..."
Smith also questioned why Flanders did not submit a larger, more powerful product for bid, as they had in Tattnall County.
Vendors discuss motor graders
Thompson asked Flanders and Caterpillar representative Allen Arnsdorff, with Yancy Brothers of Savannah, to explain why they each felt their product was best for Bulloch County's needs.
Flanders argued the John Deere 672G " is definitely in the same range " as the 140M, and said a larger model would have been " overkill for what the county is asking for and would put me way out of the competition" for the bid. He also said today's 672G is a " different machine" than in the past and should not be compared to an older model.
"I bid the right machine," he said. "We have a new, more powerful machine, and that's why I bid it."
But Arnsdorff said the John Deere 672G is not equivalent to the Caterpillar 140M.
"Had a ( John Deere) 772 been bid I probably wouldn't have had a leg to stand on," he said. " And there wouldn't have been such a price difference, either."
The bid Flanders submitted for the John Deere 672G was $208,000. Arnsdorff submitted a bid for the Caterpillar 140M at a purchase price of $254,233.
"I gave you what you asked for," he told commissioners. "Not what I wanted to sell you, to make the price look good. It's not a comparable unit."
County Commissioner Robert Rushing asked County Purchasing Manager Kenneth Trapnell if he felt the John Deere bid met specifications.
"I think it is up to the vendor what he thinks is equal," Trapnell said, adding that the slight difference in horsepower would not disqualify the bid.
The wording used in seeking bids " said 'or equal,' so others could bid," he said. "No two machines are alike."
Rushing offers solution
After listening to Flanders and Arnsdorff, Rushing offered a different solution: purchase neither machine.
The county is offering two used motor graders for sale - and one only has about 3,500 hours of use on it, he said. Keeping that motor grader and waiting until there is a more pressing need for a new purchase would make more sense, he said.
"We've got a champagne appetite and a beer budget," he said.
"I wholeheartedly agree with you, Commissioner," Thompson said. "Sell one and keep one and when we need one, rebid." There are no immediate plans to build any roads in the county, and a heavy-duty machine such as the Caterpillar 140M is not really necessary at this time, he said.
Bulloch County Chief Financial Officer Harry Starling told commissioners a balloon payment of $112,000 is owed on the used motor grader in question, and the county has the options to " turn the old one in ( it was purchased on a buy/lease agreement), sell it or pay the balloon payment."
But Commissioner Jan Tankersley suggested tabling the decision, so commissioners can further delve into details about the specifications and whether the John Deere bid qualified. "There is a big discrepancy in the bidding elements," she said.
Commissioners unanimously voted to delay the decision until Tuesday's work shop meeting.