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Hancock City Council struggles with high snow plowing expenses

In a perfect world, life would be easy, the weather would be good all the time and meeting a budget would never be an issue. However, we don't live in a perfect world, life is not easy, the weather in Minnesota is very unpredictable causing budgets to run amuck and governing agencies to struggle for answers.

The Hancock City Council did just that Monday night as they reviewed the amount of money already spent this year on snow removal and compared it to budgeted funds. While the budget has not yet been exceeded, it is coming close and there is still a good deal of winter left.

Some of the questions council had focused on were the hours spent doing the snow removal. This year Public Works Director Vern Christie received approval in December to hire two part time employees to help with the snow removal. He hired Tony Hoberg and Floyd Hoberg. The three employees have spent seven hours apiece on snow removal after heavy snowfalls in late December and January.

Council members wondered if this is the typical number of hours for removing snow in the community. They compared it to snow removal in Chokio, a town about half the size of Hancock, which is plowed by County trucks and takes two hours to complete.

However it was brought up that Hancock has only the two truck plows which are smaller and a tractor/loader system. It takes four swings to plow each street gutter to gutter. The city employees also plow the School parking lot, County roads and later do alleys and city owned areas. The school and county plowing hours are reimbursed, estimated at about five hours of the plowing time.

It was noted that this year there have been a lot of compliments about the snow plowing, especially because it seems to be plowed back further allowing for parking along the streets. However, council members questioned why it should take twice as long as previous years. Even though the council could compare hours, it was impossible to compare snowfalls since they did not have records from previous years as to the weather conditions for each plowing situation.

Tony Hoberg repeatedly invited council members to ride along with them, see what they are doing, and perhaps, offer suggestions of ways to save time. Council members instead felt that the Hobergs should simply open up the town and then Christie do the remaining snow removal on his time. Council approved five hours of time per part time employee for each snow storm of 2 inches or more.

In another snow concern, it was brought up that the road leading out of town south from Sixth Street has considerable banks. The city plows this road that is in Moore Township, through an agreement with the township. However, excessive snow has brought on a situation where caterpillars may need to be brought in to push the snow back. The city will discuss payment of this extra expense with Moore Township.

Other business

* The city has been in contact with the Minnesota Department of Transportation about putting a turning lane from Hwy 9 onto an proposed extension of 7th street near Buddies. This could be done when work is being done on Highway 9 this summer. MnDOT is looking into it.

* Two new policy will be added to the personnel policy. The first, approved at last months meeting, addresses smoking in city owned vehicles, and the second, approved Monday night, deals with personal use of city computers.

* A policy was also adopted in regard to forfeited property acquired by the Hancock Police Dept. during arrests and following charges.

* HEDA members joined Hancock School Board members in meeting with the Free Church representatives about purchase of the building. It was determined that the building would be better suited for the school solely, rather than a joint purchase between the city and the school.

* After a closed session of the meeting the following statement was read: "No Action was taken against the Public Works Director. Clear instructions for the Part-time hours will be documented in the clerks minutes and shared with Vern. "