SAN ANGELO, TX — Years ago, during the public sector’s push to privatize essential services, the City of San Angelo retired its street maintenance crews and divested itself of much of its street maintenance equipment. It wasn’t until the Mayor Dwain Morrison administration, and by 2015, that the City again initiated an annual street rehabilitation budget in the neighborhood of $4 million per year.
Most of that $4 million goes towards hiring private companies to conduct street sealcoating, according to City Public Information Officer Anthony Wilson. The City doesn’t have the same capability to repave streets it had before the push towards privatization years ago.
City Operations Director Shane Kelton, who oversees street maintenance, learned about a different technology that could revolutionize street maintenance here if the machine worked. So, he convinced City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and the City Council to invest $1.2 million buying an asphalt reuse machine called a “Benedetti” after the name of the inventor and the name of the company, Angelo Bendetti, Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Benedetti performs ReHEAT asphalt recycling; ReHEAT stands for “Recycled Hot Emulsified Asphalt Treatment.” It heats the pavement, scoops up the old asphalt, regenerates the old asphalt with additives, and then lays it back down on the roadway.
When the machine arrived in San Angelo, the City's public affairs office tauted it for its ingenuity and utility, but warned the machine could not fix Bell Street. Watch:
At the City Council meeting this morning, Kelton explained the benefits of the machine, if it worked, could be a game-changer for the City’s streets maintenance efforts. The cost would be a fraction of using new asphalt. Kelton said the Benedetti costs could be in the neighborhood of $5 to $8 per yard, compared to $35 per yard using new materials and private contractors. The machine is in wide use in the northeastern U.S., but not in Texas, Kelton told the Council.
Authorized for purchase in December 2016, the Benedetti project went sideways by 2018.
The City used the machine three months, from May until July 2018, and attempted to pave 0.6 miles, or 3,532 linear feet of street pavement. Had the repaving process worked, according to Kelton’s slides from a previous Council meeting, the cost per foot would have been in the neighborhood of $3 per square yard of pavement, a significant savings for the taxpayers.
Today, Kelton told the Council the machine did not work “due to the nature of our streets.”
“We have multiple types and varieties of streets and asphalt and not all [of the streets’ materials] are amenable to HIPAR,” Kelton said. HIPAR is the generic name for the machine and process, called Hot In Place Asphalt Recycler.
“We looked at how some of our streets react to the heat, and we’re not seeing the kind of efficiencies for us to continue to move forward with this machine,” Kelton continued.
The purchase contact for the Benedetti has an 18-month buyback provision that expired in December 2018. Kelton told Council that the vendor agreed to extend the buyback timeframe to give the City and the company time to workout the buyback details.
Today, Council unanimously approved authorizing City Manager Daniel Valenzuela to negotiate a buyback of the machine.