County Council Approves Chipper, GPS Purchases for Highway Department

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

The money the Starke County Highway Department saved on gas is being put toward new equipment to further improve safety and efficiency. The county council approved superintendent Rik Ritzler’s request to transfer $42,000 within his budget to cover the additional cost of a new wood chipper to replace one that was recently stolen. That chipper was 10 years old, and questions have been raised about why the county should spend the money on a new one. Ritzler says they demoed a new one in order to have something to use in the meanwhile and realized how far superior it is to the one that was stolen.

“It is far superior. There’s a lot of safety things that weren’t on these things 10 years ago. There’s a bar that goes across the bottom where if the person putting the wood into it gets close to it, it shuts off. There’s an idler on it that saves gas. It’s far better than the one we had before, far more efficient,” Ritzler said.

Ritzler says the new chipper will also save the county money.

“It has an auto feed so our driver doesn’t have to stick his hand in, and it can go back and forth. The used wood chippers are not that much less expensive than the new ones, and you don’t know what you get with the used ones. We get a three-year warranty with the new ones,” said Ritzler.

The council also approved an expenditure of $3,000 to equip the county highway trucks with GPS.

“It will help prevent theft. We’ll be able to track 40 vehicles and be able to monitor the gas used and idling of the trucks. We’ll know when the truck is idling for half an hour. The driver will actually get a notification actually that they’re idling over five minutes, so they’ll shut it down and it should save a lot of gas. Also it will save on routes. We have kind of an internal debate right now on whether we can do three or four trips to the stone quarry. I believe we can do four, and if we use GPS will probably be more efficient and be able to do that,” said Ritzler.

Council members praised Ritzler for being a prudent steward of taxpayer funds and finding ways to save the county money.