He votes against heated asphalt mix trailer, motions to table mower purchase

    Without much fanfare, the Crookston City Council Ways & Means Committee Monday evening approved the purchase of a heated mix asphalt trailer to replace the 1984 model that Public Works Director Pat Kelly said has become so rusty that continued repairs are impossible.   

    Kelly budgeted $30,000 for the purchase, and the bid approved Monday was $17,371.   

    But the vote wasn't unanimous. Without commenting, Ward 1 Council Member Tom Jorgens cast the lone vote against. Asked Tuesday by the Times why he voted no, Jorgens said he's simply concerned about the city budget, not so much now, but in 2015 and beyond.    

    "We need to be careful; what's lying ahead of us in terms of next year's budget looks like status quo," he explained. "If that's the case, when you add in inflation and so forth, then we may find ourselves in some difficulty."

Mower purchase tabled   

    A moment after the asphalt mixer purchase was approved, the committee moved onto the proposed purchase of a $20,314 mower from Valley Plains Equipment to be funded by special service district dollars since it will primarily be used to mow the city's new levee system.   

    But, after Jorgens offered a motion to table the purchase until the city's mowing policies can be discussed further, the council unanimously agreed, setting the table for a topic of discussion that's been pretty popular over the last year or so: All the mowing that Parks & Recreation staff does in the community that goes well beyond city parks, mostly because of all the levees to be mowed.   

    "I would like an analysis of what we mow and what alternatives we might be able to find," Jorgens said. "It seems like we have an awful lot of mowing going on, and I'm not sure if that's the best idea, so I'd like this looked at."   

    City Administrator Shannon Stassen, who recommended the approval of the mower purchase, acknowledged that in his short time on the job, he's come to realize that a lot of time and effort is spent mowing.   

    Mayor Dave Genereux said the city doesn't necessarily have to "mow every acre of land" it owns, and suggested that some areas of levee that aren't right in people's backyards might be better served with "natural grasses." Jorgens agreed with that notion.   

    "In areas where people aren't walking, we could have natural habitats for birds or something like that," he said.   

    Shifting gears a bit, At Large Council Member Wayne Melbye said he'd like to see a document that details how all of the city mowers are used, and how much overlap there is when it comes to mowers bought with "flood fund" dollars mowing not just levees, but parks, too.   

    "Maybe we need a cost-share type of thing, because it seems like we've purchased a lot of mowers over the past few years," Melbye said. "If we're using them up on the levees and the parks that's fine, but we probably better make sure we note that it's a cooperative effort; this is coming out of a fund that people probably want to stop paying in to."   

    The 20-year special service district paid into by local property owners each year is set to expire in 2017. With a balance in excess of $2 million, the endowed fund at that point is expected to be able to finance long term management and maintenance of the city's new levee system.   

    Parks & Recreation Manager Scott Riopelle said his department has six or seven mowers and they get "pretty well beaten up" after around seven years. "They take a lot of abuse," he said, noting that mowing just the levees in Sampson's Addition from the bridge to Castle Park is about a mile long, and that's just for one pass.   

    "I just want a little more of a narrative," Melbye added. "What are we replacing? What's the need? I'm not saying you don't need one."