New bulldozer becomes issue at landfill

ATLANTA – A little over a month ago the Montmorency-Oscoda-Alpena Solid Waste Authority received the new $350,000 Caterpillar bulldozer it had ordered to be used at the landfill. The landfill board approved the purchase of the new bulldozer after learning the the old dozer was on its last leg and affecting operations.

Shortly after its delivery it became apparent the bulldozer wasn’t performing properly when the weather was below freezing. It would start, but the computer system would malfunction and prevent the machine from moving until it warmed up.

During Friday’s meeting Alpena County Commissioner Cam Habermehl motioned to have Administrator Sandy Cunningham write a letter to the local CAT dealer and inform it the landfill would like to return the bulldozer and have it replaced with a new one. Alpena Commissioners Lyle VanWormer seconded the motion, but the vote ended 3-3, killing the motion.

Habermehl said CAT has been out to the landfill on several occasions and it believes the problem is an electrical issue that is causing the emergency break to seize and the hydraulics to not work. Caterpillar sent the landfill a letter saying it would warranty the electrical and computer system for six years or 6,000 hours of operation. Habermehl said as a company he likes CAT, but in this instance he believes the landfill should be given a new bulldozer.

“At this point it is still broke. Sure they gave us a warranty for it but they don’t even know what is wrong with it for sure,” Habermehl said. “We aren’t going to have many days where it is below 25 degrees and then we won’t know what is wrong with it until next winter when it gets cold again. Do you think CAT would go good on a new one then? I wanted to get a new one now, but I didn’t get the support of the board.”

Habermehl said VanWormer and Oscoda County Commissioner Larry Wilson voted to pursuit a new dozer from CAT, but Montmorency County Commissioners Bert LaFleche and Stacy Carroll and Oscoda County Commissioner John Kischnick chose to give CAT the benefit of the doubt and keep the bulldozer that is less than two month old. Habermehl said another concern he has is the problems and repairs made to the dozer will remain on its maintenance record for the life of the vehicle. He said down the road when the landfill decides to sell it and get another new one, its value will take a hit because of the early issues with it.

“Who in their right mind is going to buy a machine that has had an issue since day one and pay top dollar for it,” Habermehl said. “I think we just cost us some money down the road by not getting a new one.”

LaFleche said he has worked with CAT for years and has never had an issue with its customer service, so he decided to let them fix the problem. He said the landfill could have sent the dozer back and got another and it also could have had an issue.

“You don’t send something like that over an electrical problem,” LaFleche said. “I’m confident that they will fix the problem. I understand where Cam and Lyle were coming from in wanting a new one, but I have faith in CAT and I know they will make this right.”

Habermehl said he likes CAT products and the landfill has had good fortune with its products it has purchased in the past. He said because the trouble started such a short time after it was purchased the board should have demanded a different dozer.

“I have nothing against CAT. It has nothing to do with they’re company,” Habermehl said. “I know sometimes you buy something and it will have issues, but this one should have been replaced. If you buy a lemon, it will always be a lemon is what I believe.”

In other business:

  • the recent thaw has caused the amount of leachate from the cells to swell. Cuningham said the increase is typical for this time of year and the employees are monitoring the level of the leachate in the lagoons to be sure they don’t go over capacity. When the lagoons reach a certain point, the leachate is hauled away to the water treatment plant in Alpena.
  • Cunningham said she has not had any contact or updates from Recovered Energy Resources. RER is planing on building a gasification plant at the landfill.
  • the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality conducted a compliance inspection of the landfill on March 12 and Cunningham said it was found to be in full compliance.
  • the next landfill meeting is April 12 at 9 a.m. at the landfill in Atlanta.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at