MORRIS, Minn. - The Stevens County Highway Department will add staff and equipment to expand and improve blading and snow removal services on county roads and for local townships.
On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners authorized County Engineer Brian Giese to purchase a new motorgrader and hire a full-time heavy equipment operator/maintenance worker to run the equipment.
The vote to expand the Highway Department came on the heels of a request from Swan Lake Township for summer blading and winter snow removal services from Stevens County, which the board unanimously approved.
Giese told the board that highway department is stretched thin and already works with a contractor to run one snow removal route.
"We've been saying for some time, we're on the fringe of our ability to accomplish this many miles of road and maintenance, summer and winter," said Giese.
In accepting Swan Lake Township, the county is now responsible for blading services in seven townships and plowing services in 14 townships, along with other county roads. The county does both blading and plowing in El Dorado, Pepperton, Horton, Hodges, Framnas, Swan Lake and Donnelly Townships. All county contracts will be up for renewal in 2014.
Adding a worker and new motorgrader would allow the department to run a full 11 snowplowing routes and increase to five summer blading routes.
Commissioner Phil Gausman and Commissioner Larry Sayre expressed concerns about the ability for townships to withdraw from county services, leaving the department overstaffed.
"Framnas and Swan Lake dropped us like a hot potato before," said Sayre, noting that the contract doesn't have much of a commitment from townships.
"We have to react to that as would any business," said Giese. "We're going to have to be willing to layoff employees or sell off equipment and liquidate if we have to. The bottom line is if we're agreeing to this I want to do it well when we do it. ... Just adding more responsibility without the tools is hindering our ability to do [our work]."
The board approved two resolutions to secure grant funds for State Bridge Bonding and the Local Road Improvement Program. The two grants total about $276,900.
The board approved a change to the grade and salary for the Deputy Auditor-Treasurer/Payroll Clerk, which is now a non-union position. The board also authorized retroactive payment for a salary adjustment from July 1 of 2011 to May 15, 2012.
The board authorized Human Resources Director Sue Schultz to post an advertisement for a full-time Human Resources Director for Stevens County.
The board authorized Sheriff Randy Willis to hire Ron Hensinger as a part-time deputy sheriff.