Rogers County District 2 Commissioner Mike Helm has plans to recuperate costs on a drilling rig by subcontracting to area counties.
The $583,938 Casa Grande drilling rig was purchased earlier this year.
The drill could be digging up revenue for the county but it’s the origin of the purchase that has been sparking interest.
Commonly referred to as “the bridge machine” a number of citizens have made inquiries about why the county made the purchase, what they will use it for and who is qualified to operate the machinery.
The purchase was made from Boxcer Equipment and reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the Keetonville Road alternative project.
The intent of the purchase was to provide equipment to be used for drilling piers for bridge projects, according to Helm.
“To build our bridges we have to hire someone to drill pilot holes,” Helm said.
For example, when there are about 16 holes on a project, the cost could be approximately $45,000 plus crane rental, according to Helm.
“With this drill, this cost doesn’t exist,” Helm said.
Helm also explained that employees would be attending training to operate the equipment.
Recently Helm has also been promoting another use for the equipment.
The rig could be rented to area counties, producing revenue for Rogers County.
This would include labor charges for the time Rogers County employees would use to run the equipment for those agencies, according to Helm.
Helm’s plan is to work with the Circuit Engineering District to offer the service.
“We, the CED, would set up a rental with the CED for other counties, including the hours and operation costs for running the machine,” Helm said.
In addition, John Bickensderfer of Guy Engineering promoted the equipment rental on behalf of Helm via email to several local county commissioners.
“Commissioner Mike Helm’s District 2 is the proud owner of a drilling rig,” Bickensderfer wrote. “Commissioner Helm is working on establishing an hourly rate for drilling foundations for other counties.”
Rogers County also planned to promote the equipment in the Rogers County newsletter with the help of Public Information Officer Kristen Bergman.
Bergman, whom was paid approximately $12,000 from t-highway funds to help with public relations, was asked to include pictures and information about the rig in the August newsletter, according to emails.
In addition to those services, Bergman was asked to provide information to help with Helm’s recent re-election campaign, according to the email correspondence.
Despite the proposal to put the machine to work, it has not been used on a project to date, according to Helm.
FEMA was contacted to determine if equipment that was purchased with federal money could be used a revenue source for Rogers County.
No response was provided by presstime.
Another issue is the way the equipment was purchased.
Helm entered into a lease purchase agreement dated Feb. 27 with Welch State Bank for $330,910.04.
Rogers County paid $250,000 as a down payment on the equipment.
The equipment was purchased from Boxcer Equipment, however originated from Venture Drilling Supply in Tahlequah.
It is not clear why Helm chose to purchase the equipment from Boxcer Equipment as it could have been purchased directly from Venture Drilling, according to Tyler Williams, Venture Drilling sales representative.
Additionally, Venture Drilling will be the supplier for equipment training for the county, according Helm.
Officials with Venture were contacted to determine the price that was paid by Boxcer for the drill, however they would not provide the information stating contractual agreements prohibit them from doing so.
“We can quote a new rig, but it could be $20,000, $50,000 or $100,000 off the price of what they [Rogers County] paid for it,” Venture officials said.
The officials said that Boxcer Equipment could provide the information.
Boxcer Equipment was contacted but would not comment.
Upon further contact with the salesman, Williams, it was found that it is common practice for businesses to markup products for resale.
“That piece of equipment was brand new,” Williams said.
Boxcer Equipment likely added a 10 to 15 percent mark up on the equipment, according to Williams.
During the interview Williams was asked about his involvement in the purchase.
His response was limited, but Williams also explained Helm’s proposed use of the equipment.
“Their idea was to rent it out and will help out other counties that did not have the big equipment.”
Williams did not offer any further explanation of why the equipment was not bought directly from Venture.