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County to extend plowing, blading offers to townships

Stevens County is giving townships the chance to contract for snow removal and blading services before deciding if another heavy equipment operator position can be added to the payroll.

The county Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to fill a heavy equipment position that is opening due to a retirement, but won't add another position unless at least two townships currently not using the county for snow removal and blading opt to contract with the county for those services.

The financial outlay for adding a position is too high unless more revenue from the townships can be gained, said County Coordinator and Engineer Brian Giese.

The county will send notices to the townships explaining the situation so it can be discussed during township annual meetings this month.

Currently, county crews plow snow for 12 of the county's 16 townships, and the county provides blading services for five townships. The five-year contracts between those townships and the county run through September 2014.

Ultimately, the county would like to have contracts with the townships that stipulate that the county be responsible for plowing and blading.

The county also can't take on more township work without adding a position since it's likely that the work expected by townships already under contract would suffer, Giese said.

"I know they're satisfied with out service but they won't be if we get stretched thin," Giese said.

Townships pay the county between $10,000 and $17,000 per year for blading, and between $10,000 and $18,000 per year for snow plowing. Those figures fluctuate depending on weather conditions, Giese said.

Currently, Swan Lake, Rendsville, Moore and Framnas townships do not contract with the county for snow plowing. Five townships -- Horton, Pepperton, Donnelly, Hodges and Eldorado -- contract with the county for blading, Giese said.

In other county business:

•The board approved an agreement with the county's General Unit union on a contract that includes two half-day unpaid worker furloughs on Good Friday and the last business day before the Christmas holiday.

Non-union employees will be subject to the same furloughs on the same days.

The county has reached contract agreements with all three unions -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees general unit, highway workers and the Law Enforcement Labor Services union.

•The county Auditor/Treasurers office will handle passport processing. The county Recorder office no longer can process passports because it also handles birth certificates. According to regulations, those functions must be handled by separate departments by May 1 unless a variety of conditions can be ensured within a department, such as having different personnel handling birth certificates and passports and the storage, use and documentation of special paper used to produce birth certificates.

The county last month discussed options for handling passports but board members voted unanimously Tuesday to place the program in the Auditor/Treasurer's office.