Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sand Bags for Flood Prevention

We just survived Hurricane Sandy, followed a week later by a November Nor'easter storm that dropped 8 inches of snow.  Our property is adjacent to the Housatonic River, but we are well elevated and was not impacted.  No wind damage occurred to our building either.  Unfortunately, many of our employees suffered damage to homes and property.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their loved ones during this trying time.

In an effort to help with civil preparedness, we offered numerous sandbags that we had on out property from a past construction project.  The Connecticut DOT had an emergency project to repair a drainage pipe that traveled underneath a canal that is also adjacent to our property.  This required construction of a coffer dam (temporary dam while work takes place).  When the project was completed and bags removed from the canal, we were asked if we wanted them - and we said yes.

These are the sandbags that we offered to the electric utility and the office of emergency management and local fire departments.  They are not offered to the general public, as they are filled with apx. 2,000 lbs of material each.

If interested, contact me via email:  203-736-9249

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Efficient Vehicles

Being "green", or sensitive to the consumption of resources, is a path to fiscal savings.  Our transportation costs are not a large percentage of overall expenses, but they can be reduced through planning of capital replacements with efficient vehicles.  We haven't proven the viability of an electric truck yet, but switching from gasoline to diesel is one way to save.

One of our installation crews had a 2006 Ford E250 Cargo Van.  It had a gasoline engine.  It averaged 16mpg on highway.

That vehicle has been replaced with a 2006 Freightliner 2500 Sprinter Van.  It has a Mercedes Benz diesel engine.  It averages 25mpg on highway.

At apx. 20,000 miles driven per year, that is 450 gallons of gas saved, and when priced at $4/gallon, that totals $1800 every year.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

City of Derby Taxes / Confusion

Our business is located in Derby, CT.  It is a classic "mill town" with much of it's earlier industry focused along both the Housatonic and Naugatuck river to obtain power in the form of canals and sluices running water wheels and machinery.  When I say "classic" mill town, I also refer to the demise of industrial businesses, and vacant brick buildings becoming decrepit and eyesores before eventually being demolished.  The downtown core has experienced this gradual decline, and it detracts on the surface of what the City has as potential.

Derby is also the smallest "City" in Connecticut (meaning an incorporated municipality).With little real-estate for new business to locate into, and the tax base (Grand List) shrinking as business departs - the burden of operating government falls upon those remaining.

There was a nail clipper manufacturer that operated here for years - gone.  Next door to our company was a business that made rubber gasket for washing machines, refrigerators, and automobiles - sold and moved out of state.  There were car dealerships - shuttered.  There were lumber stores - vacant.  Downtown was a national company that processed yearbooks and school photos - consolidated elsewhere.  Those are just a few examples of reductions to Derby's Grand List.

There have been new business faces arrive in the City, but they are usually rehabilitations of existing facilities.  A Kmart retail store is remade into a Lowes Home Improvement.  A Pearl Vision Center becomes a Starbucks.  A former Woolworth's retail location becomes a restaurant.  None of these are true expansions or growth of our tax base, which is desperately needed.

Despite the arrival or departure of businesses, there are costs that remain to be paid for such as Police, Education, Public Works of Bridges/Roads, etc.  The majority of income provided to Connecticut municipalities comes from Property Taxes based upon value assessed of real-property (real-estate and buildings) multiplied against a mill rate.  Personal property (cars, trailers, business machinery, office equipment) also generates Property Taxes with the same multiplier of a "mill rate".  The mill-rate is set every year via a budget process of elected officials with opportunity for public comment.  The assessors valuations used in the calculations of Property Tax due, is 70% of market value.

Market values change, and the State of Ct requires a re-valuation periodically of all real property (real-estate and buildings).  This occurred in Derby in 2011 and was implemented upon our tax bills for 2012.  In "theory" if all property in the city faced a market downturn of 10%, and the mill-rate went up 10%, the net taxes paid would be level to the previous year.  The reality is that certain property becomes more valued, some less, some have had improvements since last valuations, and thus the total taxes paid for real-property is a guessing game until the mill-rate is set.  It's this guessing game and period of confusion that usually causes incorrect comments by the media or elected officials on the subject.

Lost in such confusion is the fact that the mill-rate is also applied to personal property, and if real-estate values have gone down as a whole across town, and thus the mill rate goes up as a multiplier, then the property tax paid on vehicles, machinery, equipment, etc - will likely go up.

This year offers an extreme of confusion given the disparity of values arrived at in the re-valuation process.  To better explain this, I will be open with our information to use as example.

Our facility is located on three parcels of land, all of which abut one another and are within an Industrial Zone that defines how it can be used.  Each parcel gets it's own property tax bill as a legal lot of land.  Two of the parcels are vacant and are only used for surface storage.  They have had no change in character over the past years, and are of similar size.

During the revaluation, one of those two parcels went down in valuation by 16%, understandable in the current economic climate compared to several years ago.  With the new mill rate we paid 6% more in taxes on that parcel.  The second of those two vacant parcels went down in value by 50%, and with the new mill rate we paid 37% less in taxes.  The third parcel that is not vacant and has structures upon it (termed improvements) went down in value by 19% and we paid 4% more in taxes.  Overall, our real-estate holdings went down in value by 21% and we paid essentially a zero% change of $73.30 more in property taxes on real-estate only.  On the whole however (including personal property taxes on vehicles and machinery), our total personal property taxes remitted to City of Derby increased by 29%.

How can one parcel be valued 16% less, and the adjacent (abutting) parcel of similar size, same zoning, and likewise no change in character from simply being a vacant lot go down in value by 50%?

I went to a re-valuation appeal hearing, but basically got no answers as to why such a discrepancy could occur.

On top of this, there has been much current confusion in the public with City Government firing the Finance Director, or maybe he resigned, but possibly the resignation letter was forged, so a lawsuit ensued.  In short order, the parties arrived at a settlement between them, but then it wasn't confirmed or agreed to by the Alderman, and thus it was taken to court, where it has been stated that the Finance Director was not qualified for the position, yet hired anyway.  All of this soap opera occurred while the operations of finances and annual City budget approval were left to be delayed without any leadership or guidance from a Finance Director, on top of this year being a challenging period of implementing the revaluation and subsequent tax bill mailing.

This sad comedy of staff/leadership caused me to pay attention to all of our Property Tax bills.  What I found was unsettling.

Of easy comparison, is the Personal Property Tax for vehicles, of which we have fourteen of various types ranging from trucks, vans, trailers, and passenger cars.  As a vehicle ages, it's value decreases.  The values are arrived at via a standardized listing throughout the state, thus a car in suburban Easton has the same value as in urban New Haven.

One of our vehicles stood out, a 2011 F250 4x4 Diesel Crew Cab Pickup.  In 2011, it was assessed at $27,590 and we paid $769.76 in property taxes.  The year's 2012 tax bill showed an assessed value of $31,160 and $1,106.18 in property taxes.

How can a 2yr old truck with over 100,000 miles on it go up in value by 13%, and with the new mill rate, go up in property taxes by 44%?

The assessed value used on a tax bill is by definition 70% of market value.  State law: "Motor vehicle assessments are based upon 70% of average retail value as determined by your local assessor".

Using the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) guide, this vehicle has an "average trade-in" value of $27,200.  70% of this 3rd party arrived at market value is $19,040.  If this value were used, the tax bill at 35.5 mill rate would be $675.92, or $430.26 less.

The total Personal Property Taxes (all vehicles, machinery, equipment, etc - not including the Real-Estate Property Tax) rose by 29% this year.

I will be appealing my vehicle's property tax assessment.

UPDATE: I visited the Tax Assessors office and questioned the valuation for the truck.  The staff person looked it up in a reference guide, noted that the valuation was incorrect and provided a corrected tax bill.  It took 20min.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Electric Delivery Vehicle

For over a year, we have been testing an electric passenger vehicle and the ability of it's charging to be done from the capacity of our solar array.  The goal is to consider the possibility of electric trucks for delivering our product, which is typically a 120-150 mile round trip in an urban setting.

There are some thought that battery capacity needs to improve so that a vehicle with a load can make the round trip back to home-base.

Federal Express can test components of such a fleet vehicle with perhaps more credibility than our small operation.  Read just such a story here:

Photo from Flickr by user LA Wad.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Electric Vehicle Test

We have posted in the past about the possible future of electric propulsion for delivery vehicles.  (see this entry from 2010Oct) Our typical delivery is a 150mile round-trip, many times with a substantial cargo weight.

Now it seems that FedEx is trying out cargo vans based on Nissan Leaf, and so is the Japan Post. (article link)

Mitsubishi is preparing a light-duty electric truck for farmers and contractors with forecast of 1/2 it's sales to be electric by 2020 (article link).  The former President of GM has joined a conversion company that makes hybrid pickups from existing lines (article link).

Big corporate names such as Coca Cola are looking to the future with EV delivery trucks (article link), specifically the Newton by Smith Electric Vehicles.  They have a range of up to 150 miles, and speed of 50mph, all while hauling up to 16,000lbs of cargo.  They are a target market with 176 purchased by Frito-Lay, 41 purchased by Staples, and plans by AT&T to purchase more, and the U.S. Marines testing a pair of military spec versions.

What does this mean for our company?  The range and cargo capacity of all-electric vehicles is approaching the standards needed for our operations.  We have been documenting capability of an electric passenger vehicle as preparation for a cargo capable vehicle.  As of 2011Dec31, our IDA electric car has nearly 13,000 miles that have been entirely powered with electricity that was generated by our on-site solar array.

Images are drawn from and copyright

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

For Sale - Racks for Storage.

We have dismantled a rack storage structure on the property, and are offering it for sale, in pieces by lot. Possibilities include creating storage in your warehouse, or garage.

The vertical uprights are 30 feet long, but can be cut down to shorter lengths. They are available in both 4ft and 5ft depths.

The horizontal beams are numerous and come in 10ft or 12ft lengths. All beams attach to the verticals with a pin insert for easy attachment or adjustment. The beams feature a shelf where corrugated decking, wire frame, wood, or other such shelf design would sit in.

All parts are sold as is, Cash and Carry, from our location at 200 Roosevelt Drive Derby, during business hours. Business hours are Mon-Fri, 5:30AM-2:00PM. Afternoon or Weekend pickup times can be arranged.

Verticals: $30 each 30ft length
Horizontals: $15 each beam
Verticals can be cut into desired length (example - two 15ft lengths), and each horizontal includes 2 pins for attachment to Verticals.

A single vertical cut in half, plus 4 horizontal beams = $90 for minimum setup. Subsequent verticals can attach to the initial first shelf making incremental increase in storage space even less expensive. Racks are available in either 4ft or 5ft depth shelves. Horizontals are 10ft or 12ft in length. No variation in price among those component sizes.

This storage system is being dismantled from our property (see other blog entries), and has some surface rust spots where a coating of paint would improve it's aesthetics if you desired.

Use these to store small items, or complete pallets of product, even leave the space below open so that you can roll in access to equipment such as a lawnmower or welder and still have storage above.

Questions, contact Thomas Harbinson

Friday, September 30, 2011

De-Construction Part6 - Complete

NOTE: Part of our Vision Statement is to be a Respected Company in the Community. That comes through communication regarding our activities. A portion of our property that is in high profile to the community is undergoing some changes. This communication series is to communicate what is happening.

"Rack Storage" brown building
We prepared to dismantle a significant sized structure on our property, starting in August.  It was completed by September 30th.  The footprint of the warehouse was 42,000 square feet, a light-engineered design style, with everything framed off the steel storage racks which supported the siding, roofing, electrical, plumbing - basically everything.  The warehouse was never used by us since moving to the property in the late 1980's.  It was a shell that had no stairs, elevator, or other ready access.  When the structure was designed, materials and product were delivered via conveyor belt.  All of these elements, along with accessory structures, were removed over 25 years ago, previous to our ownership.

Recycling Center unloads scrap.
Transporting sheething to recycler
The storage rack elements and accessories were all dismantled and removed in two months.  95% of these elements were recycled for their scrap value.  Close to 1/2 a million pounds of steel were transported by us to a recycle center within 20 miles.  Other materials were taken away as refuse.

Removing is systematically
Sheeting removed from racks
While this activity wasn't technically a "demolition", it is important to not that such work, If approached in a proper way, can be accomplished in a "green" manner.  Systematically removing the materials made it easy to consolidate for shipping to scrap yard.  Keeping the standpipe and cast iron separate from the light steel, allowed us to get the best price rather than be a mixed materials.  In essence we were constructing the facility in reverse, or deconstructing it rather than simply demolishing it.

Removing the Racks
The "floor" of the warehouse (technically not a "building") was elevated and it remains, acting now as a shed roof for our storage area below, sheltering our materials from the weather elements.  Longtime local residents may recall that the area below was where the outlet store "Sewers Delight" was once located selling cloth remnants from the days when the location housed a fabric dyeing and printing company (Hull Dye Print Works).

Finished with removal
With no specific plans at the present, the steel beams may be wrapped with the material we use on building facades to create a more pleasant presentation to the community, and help accomplish a roofing membrane and drain system to the deck for it's long-term protection.