Harris residents speak out against transfer of roads

Of the Harris residents at the City Council meeting, only two were there for something other than to protest the transfer of County Road 61 from county control to the city of Harris.

The majority of the residents who expressed opinions on the issue felt it would be irresponsible for the county to turn over the repair and maintenance to the city because of the lack of equipment the city presently has to maintain roads. The additional 6.2 miles of road the county is turning over to the city, which consist of county roads 58, 59 and 61, would increase the miles of road maintained by the city by 40 percent.

The residents brought reasons with them as to why 61 should remain a county maintained road. They noted the thoroughfare connects with three other roads in the southeast quadrant of the county: Stark Road and County Road 10 on the northwest portion and with County Road 60 and also with Evergreen Avenue. Four streets have no other access except on 61. There are 37 households on the road, along with the Gopher Rifle and Pistol Club. Using an average of 10 vehicle trips per household, this would result in 370 vehicle trips on 61 per day. This would not include the members traveling to events at the gun club. Nor would it include the two garbage routes that run on the road, the school buses for the two school districts that travel the road or the mail deliveries and fuel deliveries.

One resident posed the question, “Is the city in favor of the county turning 61 over to the city?”

“Not a chance,” Mayor Diane Miller replied.

Miller went on to explain to those in attendance that the city has been fighting the transfer of the three county roads since they first found out about it.

County Commissioner Mike Robinson was in attendance and said he was not in favor of the transfer. Robinson encouraged the residents to contact the county commissioners directly, either by phone or attending the County Board meetings.

State Rep. Brian Johnson was also in attendance. Johnson said he wanted to make sure that the transfer was done correctly. Johnson questioned if the notice of the transfer was delivered to the city by certified mail, as the state statute requires that method of delivery. Johnson also noted that before the county can turn 61 over to the city, the road has to be in the same condition as other roads that the county maintains in Harris.

Miller noted the city had contacted the League of Minnesota Cities to see what options were available and was aware of some of the points Johnson had mentioned.

Miller thanked all those in attendance. Miller said she thought it was a positive response to see so many residents willing to speak out against the transfer.

Both Miller and Robinson encouraged those in attendance to come to the County Road and Bridge meeting Jan. 15. Robinson told the residents to be sure to sign up to speak. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., and residents can start speaking at 7 p.m. — each will have three minutes.

 

Other council actions

• City Treasurer Marlys Balfany presented a written proposal regarding the city’s fire truck for the council to review. Balfany noted that the city had sufficient funds to pay off the debt on the fire truck early. Based on the rate being paid on savings accounts, she said it was beneficial to pay the debt early and save $2,762.50 in interest. Sufficient reserves would still be in place for the city.

• A draft of the proposed lease with the American Legion was reviewed. The Legion leases from the city the building that it uses. No one has been able to find a copy of the original lease. The council reviewed the draft and directed City Clerk Joanne Dargay to have the attorney make the recommended changes and forward the lease onto the Legion for their review.

• The present building inspector contract will terminate employment with the city in March. Dargay presented two options to the council on how to handle future building inspections. The first would be to contract with the county. This would involve having the county forms on hand. The clerk would send the completed form, along with the required fees to the county; the county would then handle the inspection. The other option would be to hire a new city inspector. Dargay had asked nearby local governmental units who they used. The name that was brought up was Jack Kramer, who does inspections on a full-time basis. The rate of charges to do the inspections would be comparable to the prior inspector. It was decided to have Kramer attend the February meeting to discuss options.

• The council voted on the annual appointments and designations. Two newspapers submitted proposals to be the official newspaper of the city. The Chisago County Press from Lindstrom submitted a proposal, as did the ECM Post Review. After review of the two bids, it was decided to remain with the ECM Post Review, based on the cost.

• Two engineering firms also submitted proposals to be the city engineer. In addition to the present engineering firm, Stantec, the city received a proposal from MSA Professional Services. MSA is based in St. Paul, and Chuck Schwartz, the city’s former engineer, is now employed there. The council discussed the merits of both firms, based on past experience with Schwartz and Stantec. Based on satisfactory service from both firms, the decision came down to economics, and MSA was selected as the city’s engineering firm.

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