Taxpayers Stuck With Bill After Project Backfires

A massive machine meant to save money and go green at Penndot's maintenance facility in Greensburg hasn't been used in months.The automated truck washing system was built at a cost of $278,000.It's an elaborate system of pipes and sprayers connected to several huge water tanks housed in a building.

"When it was initially built it was a state wide pilot project to try to be more environmentally friendly with washing equipment, " said Penndot Manager Tim Cook.Cook said the plan was to use the facility to wash all Penndot trucks in Westmoreland County. Trucks had been going to a local car wash where drivers pressure washed them by hand.But there were problems from the very beginning.The truck washing equipment was installed first, but because of permit issues it took another year to install the electrical system.

During that time, the warranty on the wash expired.Shortly after it went on line, some of the equipment began to fail."When we did get it up and running there were some electrical and computer issues that needed to be addressed that were no longer under warranty," said Cook.There were other issues as well.The costs for electricity, water and sewer swelled to $10,000 to $15,000 a month, definitely not the savings they hoped for. And the sprayers on the ground couldn't reach up under the trucks.We took our findings to State Representative Mike Turzai, R-McCandless."You can't be making the decision to purchase a $300,000 piece of equipment without doing significant diligence and you have to know that it's going to bring you cost savings to invest.

In this time when it's tight for families and small businesses we have to be more efficient, and the example that you bring to the table is not only an example of something that shouldn't happen and needs to be addressed," Turzai said."I would think that if the people involved in the decision making process were asked today that they would agree with you that there should have been some more thought or at least, research put into investigating the type of facility and did it fit our needs, " responded Cook.Cook said the project won't be a total loss. He said they will set up a hand pressure washing station inside the building. Cook said he doesn't know what will happen to the truck washing equipment.

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