January 23, 2019 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  Highway Department to purchase new loader

The third time is the charm for Grant County Highway Engineer Tracey Von Bargen. For two months, Von Bargen tried to convince the Grant County Commissioners that his highway department needed to purchase a new Caterpillar 950 loader, to replace the 1975 model that no longer runs. The highway department also owns a 22-year-old loader that is serving double duty, being hauled around the county for road shouldering projects and other work. A new Caterpillar 950 sells for around $211,345, minus trade in of the 1976 loader, for a total of $181,345.

Von Bargen admitted the loader will see only around 300 hours of work in a normal year, and that, apparently, was a sticking point with a couple of commissioners. At last month’s meeting, they asked Von Bargen to find a used loader, of similar size, for under $140,000.

Von Bargen did, he found a used 2015 John Deere 644K loader with 6,547 hours for $139,500. However, with this deal, he could get only $5,000 for a trade on the 1976 loader, making the price of the 2015 John Deere $134,500.

However, when Von Bargen figured in the cost per year, of running each loader for 300 hours, he came up with $9,378 for the new Caterpillar and $143,450 for the used John Deere.

Von Bargen also figured in a new John Deere 644K loader which was priced in between the two others, but whose cost per year was $10,651.

Von Bargen admitted a new loader was a high priority for his department.

“It is the only piece of major equipment we are considering for this year. It would be an investment with an anticipated lifespan of 30 years.”

At that point, Commissioner Doyle Sperr made a motion to purchase the used John Deere loader. Board chair Troy Johnson called for a second several times but did not get one.

The discussion continued. Commissioner Bill LaValley said the one good loader the department has is already 22 years old, “and that’s what I am worried about.”

Commissioner Dwight Walvatne said he would like to know more about the condition of the used John Deere Von Bargen priced, like who owned it, and did they have any trouble with it?

Von Bargen said all he knew was that the used loader was used a lot, but was in good shape and he did not anticipate any major problems with it. On the other hand, the new Caterpillar comes with a warranty.

“It is more a question of what does it cost to operate that piece of equipment,” he added.

After assurances that the Highway Department would not ask for another major purchase this year, Commissioner LaValley made a motion to purchase the new Caterpillar 950. Walvatne seconded the motion, which passed 3-2 with LaValley, Walvatne and Keith Swanson voting yes, and Sperr and Johnson voting no.

Solid Waste
The board accepted a proposed one year, used oil and used oil filters, recycling contract with Eastside Oil of St. Cloud, and a proposal for appliance and metals recycling from SW Inc, of Willmar. The proposal raised the price of recycling for air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, dehumidifiers, from $5 to $10 and the price of recycling water softeners from nothing to $10 per unit. Standish said the biggest customer for recycling water softeners was Culligan. He estimated they recycled between 80 and 100 units per year. The commissioners wondered if the county should raise the rate they charge for recycling water softeners, and make a separate rate for commercial companies like Culligan. The county has not changed its rates for 12 years.

But they also worried that if they raised the rate people would quit recycling, and the water softeners would end up in the woods or road ditches.

Any action on changing the rate was tabled for now.

Standish also informed the board that the Jeffers Family Foundation declined his request for a grant to finish the Grant County Courthouse Decorative Elements Project. Standish said the Foundation wants to see more local money in the project.

Other Business
The board talked to Chief Deputy Jon Combs about using the currently unused Grant County Highway Department garage in Barrett to store the Sheriff Department’s Command Center trailer. They said, at a recent fire chief’s meeting the issue came up, because Barrett was more centrally located than the current storage space at the fairgrounds in Herman.

Commissioner Troy Johnson, who represents Barrett, said his preference was to sell the garage in Barrett if it was unused, but if the command center trailer could be stored there, and the water and electricity turned off, he would be for that.

Chief Deputy Combs said the trailer would not be affected by the cold and storage in Barrett would work fine.

The board also approved a new police contract with the city of Herman, and Combs said candidates interviewed for deputy jobs were told part of the agreement was they would live in Herman.

“We told them that just the appearance of a deputy living in town makes a big difference,” Combs said.

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January 22, 2019