By Beth Bily
Local residents who have looked to Itasca County for their snowplowing service will have to look elsewhere in coming years.
At last week’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners, officials opted to end the service that has been offered in Itasca County for more than 35 years.
The request to discontinue plowing services was made by the County’s Transportation Department, which noted that residents who rely on the service would be notified and provided with a list of possible private service providers.
Commissioner Rusty Eichorn quickly spoke in favor of ending the service.
“It will save on equipment wear and tear and number two, the service is a third of what it was 15, 20 years ago,” said Eichorn. “It’s not a core function of what we do.”
According to information from the Transportation Department, requests for snowplowing service have been on a downhill slide for the past several years. During the 2006-2007 winter season, the county had 442 snowplowing contracts. By this past winter season, that number had fallen to 209.
After further discussion, commissioners Davin Tinquist and Terry Snyder voiced support for ending the service, but on a slower timetable.
“I strongly believe the private sector can do it more effectively than we can,” said Snyder, adding he’d support discontinuation after two-years notice.
Commissioners approved the discontinuation with the extended timeframe. Private plowing will now end after the 2015-2016 winter season. The county will, however, continue to provide snowplow widening, a pay-per-time service to push back snow banks along a driveway. That service was utilized 25 times last winter.
County residents currently contracted for snowplowing services will be sent a letter this year notifying them of the change. The county will not add any new clients to its service list during the phase-out period. Contractors interested in providing private snowplowing services should contact the Transportation Department to be added to the list of potential providers.
• Approved the minutes of the July 22 regular board meeting.
• Approved commissioner warrants in the amount of $1,627,676.07.
• Scheduled budget work sessions for Aug. 25 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Aug. 27 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Aug. 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Budgets and a preliminary levy will be discussed during these sessions.
• Directed the Transportation Department to schedule public meetings to discuss the replacement and/or closure of two bridges.
• Approved a joint powers agreement with the DNR for road grading at public accesses and DNR forestry roads throughout the county.
• Authorized the Transportation Department to purchase two skid steer trailers ($7,000/each); two Harley rake attachments ($7,950/each); one four-inch water pump ($1,500); one vibrating compactor attachment ($2,500); and one used single axle 550 class truck ($9,000).
• Adopted a resolution approving the cooperative agreement with Itasca Water Legacy Partnership Inc. in the amount of $90,000 to implement the Aquatic Invasive Species Program goals in the county.
• Adopted a resolution establishing guidelines to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and approved the fund allocation for the 2014 budget.
• Approved the joint powers agreement between Minnesota Counties Computer Cooperative and the county.
• Noted that there will be a public meeting on Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. to discuss the Liberty Township ballot question on becoming an unorganized township.