The city Ways & Means Committee agenda item read "Additional Road Grader," which one would think would be right up Public Works Director Pat Kelly's alley. But when Crookston City Council members got to that agenda item at the committee meeting this week, Kelly acknowledged he was a little in the dark.
So what gives?
Well, Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten had recently crossed paths with a Public Works staff member dealing with mountains of snow that had piled up after the latest winter storm and, according to Vedbraaten, mentioned that it would be nice if the city had a third road grader to add to its fleet of two. "He said the graders work much better than the plow trucks," Vedbraaten recalled of the conversation.
True enough, Kelly said, especially when it comes to clearing compacted ice, snow and slush from city streets. "Sure it would help," he said. "A fifth grader would help, too."
In other words, it's not in his budget at this juncture, and maybe not at any juncture. Kelly said in a couple years his capital budget includes funds to potentially look at replacing the city's oldest grader, a 1976 model, with a newer, used one, but there are no plans to add a third one. "It's just not an expense that's justified," he said. "If you have three grader routes, that still leaves you with two truck routes, so as far as the quality of the street clearing, you're still going to have two have-nots."
The city's newest grader is an early 1990s model.
Discussions have popped up now and then in the past about leasing graders instead of buying used ones, but Kelly said leasing new models would be significantly more expensive than purchasing used ones as needed. "There's no doubt in my mind our current system is cheaper than leasing new," he said.
Kelly said he needs a lot of things for his department, but looking at the balance of his central garage fund serves as a quick reality check. "We can't just start going hog wild," he said. "I'm trying to be frugal here."