The Rushford Village Council passed a preliminary 2018 budget and levy at their Tuesday, September 5 meeting. Seeking to fund some needed equipment upgrades, the council approved a preliminary $450,000 levy, an increase of $25,000 from the previous year. The council may still reduce the amount, prior to certifying the final amount to the county at the end of the year, but it cannot increase the amount.
A large force behind raising the amount stems from continued prioritizing of upgrades and projects. Public Works Supervisor Travis Scheck and Councilors Mike Ebner and Chad Rasmussen met earlier this year to discuss the status of Village equipment and to try and determine replacement plans moving forward.
“We needed to come up with a game plan,” said Ebner. “We don’t want to have to come back and ask our citizens to dig deep.” Rather, Ebner indicated the plan was to prioritize most critical items first and try to develop a replacement schedule that would have incremental increases at the most.
The biggest ticket item, and also one of the top items needing replacement, is the city’s road grader. Twenty years old, it has more than 4,700 hours on it. Public Works has been cautioned by other municipalities that units such as their Champion grader often fall victim to increasing problems after 5,000 hours.
“When we talked, Travis named off about ten things that need to be fixed. I’m not sure how long it’ll last,” warned Rasmussen. According to Scheck, the grader’s shims are one such need and is a project in itself.
“My biggest fear is that the radiator will have to be pulled out again,” said Scheck. “It has to be rebuilt. It can’t just be pulled off the shelf. They stopped making it.” Additionally, the unit’s clutch is getting to the point when they usually give. Should the transmission go, the city is looking at a base cost of $25,000. “There’s a few things that could end up snowballing,” added Scheck. “I don’t want to get to the point where we have so much in it that we can’t afford to junk it.”
After 5,000 hours, the cost of operation goes up dramatically,” added Ebner.
The council is reviewing several recent offers and sales and will continue to have Scheck look for available replacement units. The going price tag could be $250,000 for a new unit. One quote included a trade-in value on the current grader.
Another item the city is looking to upgrade is the city truck, however, that could be two to three years out. “It will all come down to cost of operation,” said Mayor Gordon Johnson, who indicated he’d rather budget than borrow. “It’s foolish to start borrowing money when you can put cheap money into something. It’s better to make sure you have a little bit of latitude in case something comes up.”
The city is currently on pace to be at or below budget for 2017. City Treasurer Judy Graham noted that changes at the state level led to some line item reconfigurations and that there should be less changes in 2018.
Councilor Dennis Overland noted the city has set aside money in CDs over recent years for upcoming projects and needs. He added that sometimes it’s better for cities not to have too much excess funds and that he’d be in favor of using money set aside for needs.
“We needed some place to start. That’s what this conversation was all about,” added Ebner. The city will continue to prioritize equipment needs to develop a schedule.
In other news, the city has opted not to seek changes to a land lease with Featherstone Farms. The city must notify the company prior to October 1 if it intends to make changes to the agreement. If no changes are needed, the agreement automatically renews.
There was only one issue related to roads during the meeting. This time, it was Cooperative Way which has two loose concrete panels. The road has been something of a headache for the Village. Mayor Johnson spoke with City Engineer Bolton & Menk and it was determined the city could purchase a specialty crack filler to address the issues. Engineer Brian Malm did not expect the panels to shift as they were constructed with dowels on one side.
“It’s kind of a rotten road,” noted Johnson. Scheck and Rasmussen will determine the correct filler and Public Works will address the problem in-house.
In relation to utilities, there was only one item of discussion. Scheck would like to see a tracer wire placed with new water installations in south Rushford. He was unsure of the exact cost, but noted it is lower than digging when problems arise. He suggested following Rural Water specifications that have been developed. The city will place the wire from the main to the curb stop for sure. The homeowner can pay additional for the wire to run from the curb stop to the home. There is an option to use tracer wire on septic lines, but the city has no plans to use it for that purpose at this time.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, September 19, at 7 p.m., at the Village Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.