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Stevens Co. Commissioners delay decision on Framnes Township snow removal services

STEVENS COUNTY - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners wants more information about the snow removal situation in Framnes Township before they will decide whether to contract with the township to provide blading and snow removal services.

Highway Engineer Brian Giese estimated that providing these services to Framnes Township would generate $22,000 in additional revenue for the Highway Department, but that $13,000 of equipment-related expenses will be incurred. That leaves $9,000 to pay for the additional part-time staff Giese said he would need.

"It's doable. We're not going to make any money. We're not going to lose a whole bunch of money," said Giese. "It's certainly going to mean that we've got to do things differently. We've got to start to look at how we deliver services on the county level differently."

The county currently runs 10 plowing routes with 11 pieces of equipment - one is used as an extra when other pieces are out for repair. Giese estimated that the "extra" truck was used 25 to 30 percent of the time on a regular plowing route.

If the county added Framnes Township to their regular routes, Giese estimated it would add about 30 minutes to each route. It currently takes about 12 hours to complete each route, depending on the state of the roads.

If the county added Framnes Township and created another regular route, each route would be reduced by 30 minutes. This plan might also require hiring additional part-time staff to complete the routes in a reasonable time, Giese said.

The request for service came up after Kathy Dingman, a member of the Framnes Township Board, approached the commissioners at their Oct. 18 meeting to request services. The board declined to make a decision until they could consult more fully with Giese, who was not at the meeting.

In 2009, the other townships the county services signed up for five-year snow removal contracts that are set to expire in 2014. At that time, Framnes Township did not sign up for services.

Commissioner Ron Staples said he disagreed with going into an agreement with Framnes Township because of the board's previous decision to contract for five years before reconsidering service and because the board turned down other requests for services earlier this year.

"I really don't think it's fair for us to turn one down and now pick up another, especially after we told them two years ago that you either get on board now or wait five years," said Staples.

"I'm of the opinion that we're never going to get enough [municipalities] at one time to say, 'Now we can add the equipment and we can add the person,'" said Giese. "What we're gonna have to do is balance and put some faith that eventually we're going to have another [request] and that's when we're going to add [equipment]."

"Long-term, it looks like we're probably going to be the provider," said Commissioner Phil Gausman. "But do we trickle them in one or a time or say when the contracts come due [they] can join?"

"I honestly think that by taking them on we'd be burdening ourselves, our equipment and personnel," said Staples. "Too add more is asking a lot."

As the discussion concluded, the commissioners directed Giese to gather more information about the situation in Framnes Township for a final decision on the issue at the board's November 15 meeting.

The board also discussed an agreement with the City of Donnelly for the city to remove some snow from a county road, MCSAH 35, in the city.

In the past, the County and City had a verbal agreement to trade equipment for services, but Giese said he was trying to formalize the agreement to either provide equipment or reimburse the city for snow removal services.