Harris takes innovative approach to public works

By Clark Natalie

On Monday, April 9, the Harris City Council took a step to save the city money in a way that has been talked about by many previous councils but never done.

With the resignation of the public works employee, the council looked at contracting out those services.  This week, after discussion, the council decided to contract out the lawn mowing, hire a maintenance worker up to 24 hours a week, and accept Councilor Rodney Larson’s offer to run the grader this year.

Councilor Randy Carlson had investigated the actual costs, per hour, for each of four duties.  Grading of roads came in at $75.31, snow plowing $80.25, mowing ditches $95.55, and lawn care $51.53 per hour. All of these duties were put out on bid.

Carlson reported that most of the bids that came in were higher than what the city could do itself, even allowing for depreciation and replacement of the equipment.

The discussion then turned to whether a part-time maintenance employee would be needed for those miscellaneous items not covered under the contracts.

Councilor Larson told the council that in discussion with other public works directors in other locations, Harris should have 80 hours a week for public works, two persons working full-time.

He explained that recently less than 40 hours a week was spent on public works, and the city has fallen behind.  If the four items were contracted out, and a maintenance person not hired, the city would continue to fall behind on things that need to be done, from hanging signs to filling pot holes.

Concern was expressed about what would be done should a storm hit again.  It was pointed out that when the last major storm hit, most of the clean up was contracted.

Other options were put out for consideration. To assist the council in making a decision, Councilor Larson offered to grade the roads this year.  This will give the council time to decide how to handle that in the future and also to work on what to do about snow plowing.

 In other business:

• North Branch approached Harris to see if it wanted go in with them and five other governmental entities to bid for gravel.  It was agreed that Harris would purchase $30,000 of gravel, which should cover in excess of a mile of road.  The main road graveled would be 420th.

• The council approved a bid to install a remotely operated door to aide disabled residents in gaining access to vote.  The cost of the purchase and installation is funded by a grant.

• The Chisago County Senior Center approached the city about financial assistance.  The center was short about $18,500 in operating costs in 2011 and was asking other local governmental entities to help with funding, based on the number of people from each community that used the center.  About 5 percent of the usage is by Harris residents.

Working on that theory, the cost was approximately $1,000. The council considered funding that much until Councilman Rosini raised questions about the center’s funding and wanted more information. It was decided to table the request until additional information could be obtained.

• The council approved two changes to the Adult Use Ordinance.  The first change dealt with the location requirements, the second requires existing adult businesses to comply with statute 111.115 of the code, paragraph (C).  No mention was made as to what this encompassed.  The only comment was that it would bring the Adult Use Ordinance issue to a close.

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