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County buys Caterpillar after tortoise start

Mon, May 1st, 2000
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The Fillmore County Board worked well into the noon hour at last Tuesdays meeting, making decisions on a number of unfinished business items. Although only three commissioners were present at the beginning of the meeting, it appeared that things were going to begin in the normal, agenda-approving manner.

However, having just three commissioners present provided an interesting twist to the start of the session when commissioner Don Boyum attempted to insert into the agenda a discussion on hiring a new Highway Specialist 3 for sign work and other duties.

When chairman Gary Peterson asked for a motion to approve the agenda, Boyum motioned to add the highway position to the agenda as a discussion item, but couldnt get a second to the motion from Commissioner Duane Bakke. Bakke, who made it clear that he was opposed to adding any new positions in the highway department until a new county engineer is hired, then motioned to approve the agenda as is. But, of course, Boyum would not second Bakkes motion.

Chairman Peterson then broke the impasse with a second to Bakkes motion and all seemed well until Boyum exclaimed it takes three votes of the board to approve a motion. As only three board members were present, and since a unanimous vote seemed unlikely, county attorney Matt Opat decided to check the statutes to see if Boyum was correct. While he was off checking, in walked Commissioner Helen Bicknese, a few minutes late perhaps, but probably never more timely in her entrance.

With Bicknese providing the third vote needed to approve the agenda, the meeting seemed to be off to its normal start again, as motions were made to approve the consent agenda and to pay the bills. Then vindication raised its proud head, as attorney Opat returned with the statutes announcing that Boyum was correct: it does take a majority of the five person board to approve a motion, except a motion to adjourn which only requires a majority of those present.

Solid Waste

Finally, the meeting began in earnest as solid waste administrator Jon Martin and recycling coordinator Sandra Benson came before the board to discuss the hiring of a consultant to work with the county in its evaluation of proposed changes at the Resource Recovery Center.

After a discussion about the various proposals from consultants, all of which were based on hourly rates, commissioner Bakke asked will we only pay for a few hours if thats all it takes?

Yes, replied attorney Opat.

Are they going to come up with a recommendation overall, or just negotiate a contract with Waste Management? inquired commissioner Boyum.

At this, chairman Peterson explained that the purpose of hiring a legal consultant was threefold: to look at the present operation and advise the board if its conclusions thus far are right; to negotiate a contract with Waste Management Inc. which would include making recommendations on what to do with the composting operation; and to look into the countys obligations to the state for grants received as well as the countys obligation to Winnishiek County for landfill use contracts.

Commissioner Boyum seemed to be uncomfortable with an hourly contract for a private consultant. I dont believe in open-ended contracts, he explained.

Ms. Benson then interjected, I think it very important that the board is clear on the parameters (of this contract), to keep the cost down.

Attorney Opat then reminded the board that a motion to hire Barbara Johnson as the legal consultant was open, but tabled, from the previous board meeting. On a motion by Bakke and Bicknese, the board approved accepting the proposal from Barbara Johnson for consulting services on an hourly basis. Boyum cast the only dissenting vote.

Looking to Opat, Boyum asked, What would be your role in this? To which Opat explained that his office would continue to provide the board with legal council, but that he was not an expert on solid waste issues. He also added that his office was backlogged with trials due to the recent Kramer trial which occupied the courthouse for seven weeks.

I want you to look at everything, exclaimed Boyum to Opat.

We could do that, assured Opat.

At this, chairman Peterson asked county coordinator Karen Brown to ask Barbara Johnson to come before the board next week. The board then spent considerable time reviewing an update of the countys solid waste management plan with Martin and Benson.

Grader Bid

The next big item on the boards agenda was county engineer Gene Ulrings last official meeting with the board before his retirement. Ulrings only agenda item was to get a board decision on the purchase of a new grader. Present for the discussion were several county highway employees and two of the bidders.

The county board had solicited bids for a new, or slightly used grader, and had asked Ulring at the previous board meeting to provide maintenance costs and service details comparing a Caterpillar grader with a Champion grader. As the county owns both Caterpillar and Champion graders, information on the costs of maintenance and repair of both models was readily available.

In his report to the board, Ulring displayed that the Caterpillar had a lower service cost at $11.53 per hour of operation versus a range of $16.62 to $24.37 per hour for the several Champion graders which the county owns. This, in addition to the fact that the Caterpillar had a lower bid cost at $32,059 (after buyback repurchase in five years) against the Champion bid cost at $38,680, was enough to convince the board to buy the Caterpillar. On a motion by Boyum and Bakke, a vote to approve the purchase of the Caterpillar grader was unanimous.

Compensation Study

Following the highway matters, the board held a brief discussion on the Bjorkland pay study which has been ongoing. Coordinator Karen Brown answered commissioner questions on whether the countys department heads had received answers to their questions on job classifications. Brown related that the questions had been answered and also informed the board that the county would not be bound by the plan to pay salaries at the rate of 95% of the average salaries of other counties studied, but could set the percentage rate where they want to. It was decided to have Bjorkland come before the board in two weeks to discuss the study with the commissioners.


Before adjournment, chairman Peterson asked if there were any committee reports. Commissioner Boyum provided a report of a highway committee meeting hed attended and again emphasized the need to hire a Specialist 3, assistant sign person. Pressing the importance of this position, he noted that within two years state law will require that Fillmore County name or number all roads within the county.

Do you want a sign person on next weeks agenda? queried Peterson. Well need a job description, he added.

With most of those present realizing that this is where the meeting had begun, a motion was made to adjourn and was approved without a dissenting vote.

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