Council members convince Stassen, Kelly to experiment with the purchase and installation of a ‘gate’ on a road grader

    For property owners in the winter time, it’s one of the things they dread the most: A significant snow event occurs, they go outside and dutifully clear the snow from their driveways via snowblower or shovel, only to have a city road grader or plow truck come by afterward and in the process of clearing the street, it leaves a big, heavy snowdrift that blocks in the driveway, necessitating the property owner to clear that as well.

    That might change, at least to a degree, in Crookston this winter, when the City of Crookston’s Public Works Department experiments with the purchase of a “gate” that will be installed on a road grader. The addition of the gate will prevent a drift of snow from being left at the ends of driveways as the grader goes by.

    City Administrator Shannon Stassen and Public Works Director Pat Kelly, at the request of some city council members a while back, looked into the possibility of using gates for such a purpose in Crookston. After Kelly did some research and checked in with some of his colleagues elsewhere, Stassen said his recommendation was to shy away from buying any gates because not every property owner in town would enjoy its benefits. “How do you determine who gets it and who doesn’t?” Stassen wondered.

    Kelly seconded that train of thought. The people he talked to who had given gates a try wish they never had, he said. “No one ends up being happy,” Kelly said. “Citizens have expectations that there will be no snow at the end of their driveways, but that’s just not the case. …If you pick and choose who gets it, you’re going to end up with a lot of unhappy people, so unless there’s some incredible improvement, there’s no way to justify ever going with this.”

    Plus, Kelly added, utilizing gates on graders will add a great deal to the amount of time it takes crews to clear the community of snow after a significant snow event, and it will likely lead to more snow being piled up on corners and at the edges of property owners’ yards.

    Some council members, however, led by Ward 1’s Jake Fee and At Large Council Member Bobby Baird, weren’t convinced that giving at least one gate a try would be such a bad thing. Plus, Fee said, he’d learned that gate technology would soon be available for plow trucks as well, not just graders, of which the City of Crookston owns and operates two. Baird added that he’d researched technology that allows for a gate to be added to a grader’s “wing” as well.    

    “These products are out there,” Fee said. “Any kind of improvement would be good, I think.”

    Fee said he’d done his own research, and learned that some municipalities who had given gates a try are “extremely happy” with them. He also contended that Crookston residents who maybe didn’t benefit immediately from the use of the gates would be “OK” with that if they knew they were being tested elsewhere in the community under the guise of more gates possibly being added to snow removal equipment in the future.

    Kelly said he was willing to give a gate experiment a try if that’s what the council wants, and that’s what the council wants. It’s going to cost anywhere from $7,000 to $14,000 to purchase a gate.

    “We’re always talking about quality of life, well, this affects almost everyone in town,” Fee said. “For this price, it’s worth a try.”

    At Large Council Member Bob Quanrud said he thinks it’s worth giving it a try. “People would appreciate this a lot,” he said. “Maybe test each area after storms, with people knowing not everyone’s going to get it after one year or even two.”

    Although some council members suggested that Kelly should build more overtime into his budget – and that council members not be upset later if his overtime budget increases due to the added time of clearing snow with a gate installed – Stassen said the chief concern should not be increased overtime costs. “It’s about getting the community opened up in a timely fashion for people to get to work and get to school,” he said. “This will take more time.”

    Fee said if the experiment doesn’t go well, he won’t stand in the way of returning to a snow removal system, sans any use of gates. “This might look bad in a year, but I’m for at least giving it a shot,” he said.