Harris looking for public works employee yet again

By: Clark Natalie

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Once again, the person who the city of Harris hired to fill the public works employee position is no longer on the payroll. William Binger, the man the city had hired at the end of 2015 on a part-time basis, mainly to plow snow, operate the plow truck and grader, tendered his resignation before the Jan. 11 Harris City Council meeting.

The resignation was caused by unforeseen circumstances that would not allow Binger to work until after the plowing season was over. The council had a discussion as to whether the position should be filled on a part-time basis or full-time basis. Clerk Joanne Dargay offered the opinion that if the position were offered on a full-time basis, the quality of the applicants may improve. Mayor Diane Miller countered that of all the employees the city has had in the public works position, none have worked a full 40 hours per week on a regular basis. It was finally decided to run the ad as a part-time time position.  Dargay indicated that it is her intention to update the ad and make changes. Dargay will forward the revised ad to the council for their approval before it is done. At the present time, the roads are being maintained by two qualified local operators on an as-needed basis.

The council also reviewed the condition of the public works equipment. It started with a hydraulic cylinder that needs repairing on the plow truck. The truck also has other maintenance issues: The plow is cracked and pins are missing. The 1-ton truck also needs a new bed. This replacement can wait until spring, but the cost to switch the bed is approximately $5,000. The grader had to have the batteries replaced, as they no longer held a charge. That cost was $314.

In other news:

• The Fire Department had brought to the council for approval changes to the department’s standard operating procedures. Some of the items that were changed caused questions from the council. Miller questioned the change about the eligibility requirements where the distance that the firefighters could live from the station was moved from 6 miles to 10 miles or at the chief‘s discretion. Fire Chief Trevor Williams indicated that some members live more than 6 miles from the station now; none live over 10. There has been no problem with those members responding to emergency calls in a timely manner.

• At the present time, the position of fire chief is appointed by the City Council for a two-year term. The term was proposed to be a one-year term. The council questioned whether this was workable, as it usually takes at least a year for a new chief to learn the ropes of the position.  The council requested that Williams take the discussion and opinions of the council back to the department at the next business meeting for their consideration before approving any changes.

• The Chisago County auditor notified Harris of two parcels of land that had been forfeited to the state of Minnesota for nonpayment of property taxes. One parcel is rather large, and Miller wondered if the city would be interested in purchasing the property. Miller was considering the possibility of constructing walking paths or trails along with parking areas. Dargay pointed out that utilizing the parcels as park land is allowed, but because of the classification of nonconservation land, the city is restricted as to what they can use the land for. After continued discussion, due to liability issues, it was decided to approve the property for public auction. The property could be developed and back on the tax rolls.

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