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Questions develop over grader bid

Tue, Apr 11th, 2000
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The Fillmore County board on Tuesday, spent a good deal of time discussing the sticker price on a grader. In fact, when it came time to award the bid and buy the piece of equipment, the board couldn't quite decide which bid was the cheapest or, for that matter, which was the better deal.

At first glance it appeared that of the two bids recieved, the one from St. Joseph Equipment for a 2000 Champion was cheaper than the bid for a 1999 Caterpillar with 200 hours from Ziegler, Inc. With trade-in, the Champion bid came in at $105,780, approximately $20,000 less than the Caterpillar.

While the advertisement for bids only called for a direct puchase of a new or slightly used grader with trade-in, county engineer Gene Ulring also asked prospective bidders to include a five year buy-back repurchase guarantee in their bids. This is what threw a wrench into the works.

With the buy back agreement, Caterpillar now appeared to be the better deal, coming in at $32,059, approximately $6,000 cheaper than the Champion.

The board was confused, and perhaps rightly so.

"There is some question as to whether this is a policy change in how specs are delivered," Commissioner Gary Peterson said.

"When we authorized advertising of bids, we didn't get into the details," added Commissioner Robert Underbakke. "We should have changed policy prior to getting bids."

Commissioner Duane Bakke seemed to agree. "We haven't done it (buy-backs) on other bids for equipment in the 14 months I've been here," he said.

While the board was pondering if the "buy back guarantee" was a change in policy as to how specs for equipment were advertised, Donald Benz from St. Joseph Equipment was yelling FOUL.

"If the county engineer wants a Cat, this is what they'll do," argued Benz. "That's why John Deere didn't bid."

But Ulring said that this wasn't a change in policy. He and Brent Kohn, Shop Foreman, told the board about the cost of upkeep and the down time on various graders. (Ulring contended that this increased the cost of the Champion product).

Ulring also contended that even without the buy-back guarantee, the re-sale value of a Cat is two or three times higher than that of a Champion. "The five year value on the open market is $125,000 for a Caterpillar versus $46,000 for a Champion," Ulring said "We need to consider this when we buy equipment.

Dana George of Zeigler, sensing an opportunity to speak up for his product, said that buying a grader is more of an investment than a purchase. "The buy-back guarantees a fixed price in a changing market," said George.

Benz responded by saying if this is how the county is going to do business, then this would be the last bid the county received from St. Joseph.

The board then looked toward county attorney Matt Opat, hoping he would shed some light on what they should do.

"I'm more concerned that all bids are done the same way," Opat said.

The board reached no decision, choosing to table the matter and have Ulring return next week with maintenance costs and state contract prices.

With the echoes of the grader discussion still bouncing off the walls, the board quickly approved the purchase of a used John Deere tractor and mower from Doyle Equipment for $50,800. There was no discussion of "buy-backs", maintenance records or market values.

Bjorklund Compensation Report. The board discussed the recently completed compensation report. Policy coordinator Karen Brown told the commissioners that the general consensus was that the report was objective, although there were some concerns about how some of the job descriptions were evaluated, but overall the board should accept the report. Brown also said that there was a general feeling that a third party should be contracted to maintain the plan and evaluate a certain number of positions each year.

Commissioner Bakke questioned when and where it was decided to implement the plan at 95 percent of the average salaries of other counties studied.

"This seems arbitrary to me," he said. "Where should we be on the average. Should it be based on tax base? Population? We need to ask the consultant the question, Where should Fillmore County be?."

Bakke went on to add that while we know the potential first year costs, we need to know what the costs will be down the line. Commissioner Peterson said that he was real hesitant to im-plement the report based at this time.

"A lot of people feel that they are not classified right," Peterson said. "If there are problems, let's find out what they are and look at them."

The consensus of the board was to revisit the compensation issue again next week. Department heads were asked to list any concerns they had.

Beverage container bill. Former commissioner Robert Thompson was before the board to raise the issue of littering in the ditches.

"This time of year, if you drive down a township, county or state road, you'll see how full the ditches are," Thompson told the board. "I think we need a beverage container bill requiring a deposit, just like they have in Iowa, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania."

Thompson said there is also a problem with lottery tickets. "Maybe we should get 10˘ for every ticket sold to help with clean-up," he said.

Thompson urged the board to work with legislators and the Association of Minnesota Counties to urge such action.

"I keep hearing that we have really powerful legislators in southern Minnesota," Thompson said, drawing laughs from the board.

"I"m sure they'll be able to do something about this."

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Dwight Heil, Director of Zumbro Valley Mental Health Center (ZVMHC), spoke to the board about the services ZVMHC provides for the county and to raise attention to the fact that May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

The agency provides contracted services for the county which includes crisis intervention, community support services, counseling and day treatment programming.

New county engineer? The board voted unanimously to amend the hiring policy to allow new employees to start at a range of Step 1 or Step 5, depending on the applicant's related experience for the purpose of hiring a county engineer.

The board then voted unanimously to make an offer of $61,000 to Steven Voigt for the county engineer position. County engineer Gene Ulring presently makes around $59,000.

Feedlot officer. The board authorized the county to advertise for the hiring of a feedlot officer.

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