Archive for Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lawrence to purchase GPS system for trash trucks and other city vehicles

A city public works sand truck travels east on 19th Street on Tuesday morning, spreading sand on intersections during a light sleet.

A city public works sand truck travels east on 19th Street on Tuesday morning, spreading sand on intersections during a light sleet.

December 28, 2010


The hands-on work of collecting trash, plowing streets and plugging broken waterlines is about to get a high-tech assist.

Beginning next month, new GPS units will be installed on dozens of trucks and other pieces of equipment owned and operated by the city of Lawrence for basic municipal services: collecting and disposing of solid waste, repairing and clearing public streets, and replacing and unplugging the separate pipes that carry water and sewage.

The intent: Work faster, plan better and, perhaps, spend less doing it.

“We’re using technology to better, more efficiently deploy our resources,” said David Corliss, city manager. “That’s increasingly important when we have limited resources.”

Lawrence city commissioners voted Tuesday to spend $50,199 on the system for 2011. The total includes buying actual GPS units — 35 for trash trucks, 32 for utilities vehicles and 26 for street division trucks and equipment — and a year’s worth of monitoring service through Networkfleet Inc., based in San Diego.

The units will allow supervisors to monitor the precise locations, speeds and, in some cases, even activities of GPS-equipped vehicles and equipment. The street division’s dump trucks, for example, will have special “diagnostic” units that will sense when a snowplow is scraping ice or snow from a road surface, and when a spreader is spraying salt and sand to improve traction.

At some point, the city may make such information available to anyone with Internet access, said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works.

“You get up in the morning, see there’s 15 inches of snow, and you’re wondering how you’ll get to work,” Soules said. “You can open this and see which roads we’ve been on and which ones we haven’t been on.”

The units will begin arriving in January, with installation expected to be complete in the spring, he said.

Other benefits of the system, Soules said:

Efficiency. Supervisors will be able to track trash trucks as they make their daily rounds, to see where routes could be adjusted to save time and fuel — and exactly which truck would be closest to anyone calling in a “missed” collection.

Accountability. Supervisors hearing reports of a city truck barreling through a residential area will be able to check the claim within moments, simply by looking at a truck’s data on a computer screen.

Businesses with fleets large and small already use such technology to improve efficiency and service, Soules said, and it makes sense to extend such capabilities to appropriate municipal motor pools.

“We’re dealing with public money,” Soules said. “We have to be accountable.”


DillonBarnes 7 years ago

How likely do you think that "snow plow update" system will ever work? I foresee many "technical difficulties" that will make the system slow, costly, and inefficient. Sounds great in theory, but I can't see it happening.

bearded_gnome 7 years ago

"Car 54" By: "Ned Hiken"

There's a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn's broken out in fights, There's a traffic jam in Harlem That's backed up to Jackson Heights. There's a Scout troop short a child, Khrushchev's due at Idelwyld, CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?

[note, this is from a very old tv series]

geekin_topekan 7 years ago

Eularian graph and a pencil would be much cheaper.

Total cost:100 hrs and a $7 box of pencils. No eraser necessary, I don't make mustakes.

Oh, and lunches for two weeks.

Total cost to the city: $1307.00

Randall Barnes 7 years ago

What a wase of our money. yes tax payers money whats gonna happen to the supervisor that drives around checking on the workers ? guess he will loose his job ?

fester0420 7 years ago

so technology that would saves us money is too costly. too funny

mae 7 years ago

It's pretty hard to find your way going 1/2 mile an hr. I know the boss doesn't wan't to leave the office b also, but still, it's his job to check on the minions.

really. really? we pay these people?

LogicMan 7 years ago

Big Brother will be watching you guys soon. Better not stop for donuts.

If they take all the fun away, no one will want one of these recession-proof jobs.

Matthew Del Vecchio 7 years ago

The knee-jerk complaining on these comment boards never ceases to amaze me. The public sector is decades behind the private sector in regards to using technology to increase efficiency. This is a good move.

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

Getting the equipment doesn't mean they will be able to use if effectively.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

By contrast, the cynicism you exhibit, highlighted with no expertise whatsoever is an all but guaranteed conclusion.

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

They paint a very pretty picture, being able to jump online and get an almost up to date report of the street sweepers. That involves a long chain of people and equipment. Who will be in charge of this? Are we hiring a full time, GPS updater?

Also, this is suppose to make everyone more efficient. Who is going to be reading and interpreting this data? Can they make it more efficient, sure, but just buying the equipment is far from a solution. I'm sure this system will call for more money to make it a worthwhile investment, but I don't think anyone will want to pour more money into the system.

Is it cynicism, I think it's more realism.

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

Maybe it is cynicism, but I see a difference between local governments and a company. I have no doubt that this system CAN be very efficient and a very positive investment. I just question how well our local government will be able to make use of it.

Matthew Del Vecchio 7 years ago

" Are we hiring a full time, GPS updater?" this both funny and sad.

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

Ah yes, when you have nothing left to say, resort to insults.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

That's a good point Dillon. I didn't think about the cost of the full time GPS updater (not to mention the cost of ledger paper, pens, whiteout etc.)

Also a good point regarding the data interpretation as well. I mean, after the full-time GPS updater get's it all jotted down in his or her ledger, it could take a crew of 20 several weeks to make sensible graphs out of the data. And then there's even more equipment cost of rulers, protractors, and even MORE whiteout.

With all that extra cost, I can't see how the city will be able to afford the ever growing expense of food pellets for the army of gerbils who turn the wheels that keep the municipal mainframe running.

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

An excellent level of sarcasm, was there a point in there?

fester0420 7 years ago

it would integrated into existing jobs

mae 7 years ago


really, someone needs to look at the guys that arrive too early for your alarm clock.

so so sorry that you get up an hr or so after them.

Clovis Sangrail 7 years ago

This is excellent. When this technology is in place, when it snows, I will be able to look on line and find out the plows are all out plowing west Lawrence golf course streets, instead of having to bundle up and drive out there and look for myself like I did last December..

compmd 7 years ago

Which city commissioner has a friend at NetworkFleet? Rather than supporting local economy by going with one of the dozens of MRM integrators and providers that uses locally developed and supported products from Garmin, the city chose to blow their money in California.

“We’re dealing with public money,” Soules said. “We have to be accountable.”

How about keeping that public money in Kansas?

Good job screwing over your own people once again, commissioners.

Raiden 7 years ago

even still...the kickback commissioners can still make decisions to spend our tax dollars in Kansas.

Danimal 7 years ago

Do we have this capability yet on emergency vehicles? It would seem like that should be a priority so dispatchers can more effectively route emergency services vehicles. I'm not opposed to putting it on public utility vehicles, but I'm not convinced yet that it's worth the cost.

inatux 7 years ago

Or how about accountability for why three gas-guzzling vehicles show up for EVERY type of call (police, fire truck, ambulance).

House fire? Sure, sounds like a good idea. But not every call needs everyone involved. What a wasteful policy.

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

Listen to the police scanner a little bit. Information is often very scarce and remember, most firefighters are also trained medical personnel.

Police are usually the first to arrive, and they are also trained in, at the very least, first aid and CPR.

It's very clear why multiple vehicles respond, taking the time to find out exactly how many vehicles are needed will cost lives.

1029 7 years ago

Well, this helps explain why I saw a City of Lawrence garbage truck blocking traffic trying to do a u-turn on 56 near Overbrook about a month ago.

kernal 7 years ago

My first thought was, "What! Can't they read maps?" But when I thought it over, it makes good sense. Why should we pay a supervisor to spend the day tailing the minions around town, wasting gas and causing wear and tear on the supvervisors city owned cars? Also, this should help emergency response time for LPD and Fire/Med teams for new streets, which won't show up on maps for ten to fifteen months and those mystery streets that are less than a block long and tucked away.

fester0420 7 years ago

finally some comments with some sense

gudpoynt 7 years ago

I was skeptical about the cost of the devices, but knowing that "a year’s worth of monitoring service through Networkfleet Inc." is included in that price makes more sense. In fact, that might be a better deal than I expected. Software as a service is not cheap, especially with specialized systems such as fleet monitoring.

It would have been nice to have supported Garmin (relatively local) and their affiliates for a fleet monitoring product. I wonder if the city sent them an RFP and if so, how the bids compared.

Investigative challenge: Somebody with more time than me please find the bid for this contract, If there was no bid, then how was the deal made?

Kirk Larson 7 years ago

This kind of tech helps you use computers to optimize your activities. Look at farmers. They use GPS in combines and tractors now to great benefit and they're just going up and down a field.

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

Yes, farmers use GPS quite a bit, but in a different way. More advanced farms may use the system to find out what field the employees are in, but it's different for the average farmer. Their system is used to make efficient and complete coverage of a field. It reduces over spray, or missed patches, etc, etc. So yes they use them, but in a different vein than what these systems are being proposed.

Kirk Larson 7 years ago

Yes, the farmer uses GPS data to maximize coverage and minimize fuel use. I was citing farmers to show they get benefit in a very simple setting. Data from sanitation trucks can be used to make routes more efficient, track miles per ton picked up, determine if fewer trucks could be used, lots of stuff no one's even thought up yet in a much more complicated system. More data is usually better data.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years ago

Yet more evidence of our incompetant, spineless, clueless, gutless, useless yard sign city commissioners who dance to the tune of our unelected, unacountable coreless "city mangler".

A total waste of public money, a totally irresponsible action against the taxpayers, a total exposition of why our city government is completey broken, busted, dysfunctional, disassociated with reality and totally unconcerned with the true needs of the city and the public.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

D minus. No credibility. No point. Just another baseless rant. Correct grammar saves you from getting an F.

Oh, wait... you spelled unaccountable incorrectly.

F it is.

Aiko 7 years ago

Why did they not go with a company that was started in the LRTC bubble?

aldo 7 years ago

Throw money, City of Lawrence. Hire another out of towner. Way to go ... sure glad we raised sales tax and parking meter fees to buy this kind of stuff plus to pay for those mighty fine new vehicles the meter readers get to ride around in now.

What ever happened to building a rainy day fund with extra revenue or LOWERING sales taxes if we have so much extra money to throw around ?

Next time they talk about the NEXT " one cent " tax hike, maybe voters will think differently. "One cent" sounded so insignificant didn't it ? Call it what it really is: 1 % = $1.00 per $100, $10.00 per $1000 ... How about an extra $ 400 on that new $ 40,000 car ?

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

I think the city could have set up a website for snow removal, but just leave it up to the citizens. People sign in, the system saves their house location, and they can mark street condition or whether the streets have been bladed or salted. Not perfect, but multiple reports can reduce the chance of reading a false report. Heck, make an app for phones to use their GPS location to pick a selection (Impassable, bladed, salted).

bearded_gnome 7 years ago

Dillan, this tech for fleet monitoring has been around for quite some time. and ref your comment about monitoring and updating is jst moot anymore. much happens by simple programming--it's automated and very very fast. plus the provider does a lot of the updating remotely as a part of the contract. so likely wouldn't need anybody employed here to be an "updater."

another benefit of this system: safety, emergency situatios. yes I know we're not talking about lpd/ldcfm. howevr in event of natural disaster/man-caused event you can just look at the board and you know immediately where your people and resources are to direct them.

Big Brother will be watching you guys soon. Better not stop for donuts.

---well now, locations of donut food stuffs providers are certainly very very high on the priority list for clearing, right?

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

Thank you for not posting another negative comment.

I hope you right, I'm just a little pessimistic.

GardenMomma 7 years ago

So what happens to all these GPS devices on the trash trucks when the city decides to outsource the trash pick up service?

kernal 7 years ago

I think this decision implies the city has tabled that idea for now.

pace 7 years ago

I think this is smart. It is one of the many tools modern freight movers use for their fleet. Also in a disaster it can make a difference. Sadly if someone steals a garbage truck for a quick get away we can nab them before they disappear in the traffic.

DillonBarnes 7 years ago

You are joking right? You're worried about someone making a get-a-way in a garbage truck?

pace 7 years ago

Yes I was joking about the fast get away. But gps would help if some yahoo did steal a vehicle. I wasn't joking about how the trucks should be on gps. Routes, collections, disaster reaction, efficiency, can be helped by smart use of gps. I am against privatizing the system. I am for changing, updating some of the management procedures. I am not for scrapping all the past investments in our waste management. People don't think of the waste management system as part of the emergency response system but it is crucial part. I am against privatizing it. Imagine the difference in clean up after a tornado when the city or the homeowners have to renegotiate for emergency collection with a low bid firm out for the fast buck.

BruceWayne 7 years ago

"The units will allow supervisors to monitor the precise locations, speeds and, in some cases, even activities of GPS-equipped vehicles and equipment. "

And who will be watching the supervisors? How long are we going to let Core-Less piss away our money?

Kontum1972 7 years ago

did u take into account that sanitary plastic bags will be require to prevent trash goo from mucking up the GPS units...

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years ago

Core-less is hired and managed by the city "commission". The "commission" is responsible for his performance audit. The city mangler directs the actions of the city "commission". The city "commsiion" dances to the tune that the city mangler calls. Does anyone with a shred of common sense see how this arrangement results in this sort of crap??

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years ago

Core-less is hired and managed by the city "commission". The "commission" is responsible for his performance audit. The city mangler directs the actions of the city "commission". The city "commsiion" dances to the tune that the city mangler calls. Does anyone with a shred of common sense see how this arrangement results in this sort of crap??

foxfire 7 years ago

Why are we spending money to get the sanitation employees off work sooner than they get off now? Remember the report that showed several employees don't work 40 hour workweeks now but still get 40 hours of pay? I just don't get it!

whats_going_on 7 years ago

OR, perhaps the city should buy more sand and salt and come up with better plans if/when we get another big storm like last year......

bearded_gnome 7 years ago

you're welcome Dillan.
if used properly, I think this tech has the potential to pay for itself and then some.

lol: "officer, it was a big, slow, stinky garbage truck with city of lawrence all over it. the joy riding teen was speeding at 35mph going ... that'a way! she had a stogie hanging from her lip, two rose tattoos on her arms, sleeves rolled up, ... hope you can catch her!"

"sorry sir, she'll just melt right in with lawrence's traffic. there's no hope in trying to catch this one even if we had our own chopper!"

[imagine on Cops?]

been_there 7 years ago

No more using city vehicles to take your kids to and from school. Always wonder about the insurance liability on that.

kernal 7 years ago

Probably will see fewer of them shopping at Dillons all over town. That bag of groceries was a dead giveaway.

storm 7 years ago

Fix the headline. It's not GPS System. The S in GPS represents system already. And remember a Pin code is not a Pin number nor is a vin code on a car a vin number. Responsible journalism, please.

Bob Forer 7 years ago

About the only worthwhile comment in this entire thread. Reminds me a little of the late William Safire's weekly "On Language" column in the New York Times.

IndusRiver 7 years ago

With all of the dirty money in the pockets of Lawrnce City officials why don't they foot the bill? That way when they decide they own it they will have paid for it, too.

IndusRiver 7 years ago

“We’re using technology to better, more efficiently deploy our resources,” said David Corliss, city manager. “That’s increasingly important when we have limited resources.”

Resolution X8: Approve 2007 Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to City of Lawrence in the Amount of $83,659.12. The LDCHA’s annual payment in lieu of taxes for 2007 is in the amount of $83,659.12. As a tax-exempt organization, the housing authority makes an annual payment to the City in exchange for public services and facilities furnished from time-to-time by the City. The amount of the PILOT is set by federal regulation and is equal to 10% of the housing authority’s rental income minus the utility costs paid by the housing authority. Rental income for 2007 was $1,116,289. Utility expenses were $279,698.67. Rent minus utilities equals $836,591.23. Ten percent, $83,659.12 is the 2007 PILOT payment to the City. If the LDCHA was a taxable entity the amount of property taxes would be $157,500.55. Commissioner Clark moved to approve the 2007 PILOT payment to the City. [SOURCE: MINUTES OF THE 2008 ANNUAL MEETING OF THE LAWRENCE-DOUGLAS COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS April 28, 2008]

Call your buddies, Clique Corliss.

IndusRiver 7 years ago

“We’re dealing with public money,” Soules said. “We have to be accountable.”

Oh! Of course. The only problem is that you City geniuses haven't figured out how you were going to go about developing a plan for accountability.

At least not yet, and most certainly not for less than a hundred grand when your illustrious Board approves it. .

JackMcKee 7 years ago

It costs $50,000 for the units. Here are some questions that a good journalist should also have put in the story.

  1. How much is the monthly service fee
  2. What percentage of time does the city estimate is wasted by loafing employees
  3. What is the cost to the city of loafing employees
  4. What is the cost for each GPS unit

That way, the readers can discern the actual value of this project.

Because this information is not listed in the story I have to assume. I assume the answer to #1 is quite a bit more than you would think because I doubt this California business makes much money flying out to cities to install a couple of GPS units. I assume the answer to #2 and #3 are something the city hasn't really thought about beyond the sales pitch of the company, so I seriously doubt if the city put a whole lot of thought into this scheme.

JackMcKee 7 years ago

I'm assuming that's the cost savings the city expects from the units. I guess the people could just get lost a lot, but I doubt that's it.

As for my job. I am the boss/head honcho so I loaf whenever and however I please. It's good to be the king.

JackMcKee 7 years ago

the definition of a loafing employee is someone who is on the clock who is doing something that does not benefit the person paying his check.

JackMcKee 7 years ago

seeker of truth, I've had a profitable business for over 10 years and I've employed numerous people. Jealousy is so ugly. Anyway, are you a city employee? You sure seem offended that someone would think that you might loaf. I was just reading between the lines in the story. Did you read the story? The city thinks GPS tracking will reduce costs. I mean Lawrence isn't really big enough to get lost in, now is it. Maybe that's it. I don't know. I just doubt that Lawrence will see a huge cost savings by keeping employees from getting lost, so loafing seems like a plausible interpretation.

JackMcKee 7 years ago

I'd also like to know if the GPS units can be used with another service provider, or is the city of Lawrence going to be stuck with this company.

JackMcKee 7 years ago

well thank you for doing the job of the reporter. The LJW should pay you for your work.

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