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Fill ‘er Up!

By Staff | Jun 23, 2009

With bids for fuel supplies for the coming year in hand, Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz broached a subject for discussion that has occupied the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors for the past two weeks. The question revolves around the county’s Secondary Road Department Fuel system at its various maintenance locations in the county.

The discussion began back on June 9 when Fantz reported the results of fuel bidding for Secondary Roads for the coming year. The bids were close, according to the engineer, with Ruthven Coop Oil Company winning the bid for the county’s maintenance shops in Emmetsburg, Graettinger, Ruthven and the County Conservation Board location at Ruthven. The bid for the West Bend and Mallard maintenance facilities went to Pro Coop, with Star Energy in Cylinder receiving the bid for the Cylinder facility.

“As you know, we do not have tanks of our own at Cylinder, and we are working to put in our own fueling facility at Cylinder later in the year,” Fantz noted. “We’re also studying a new fuel system, county wide, to help us keep better track of our fuel usage and sales to other governmental agencies, but a big part of this is the fact that the systems in Graettinger and Ruthven both need to be replaced soon.”

It was the topic of fuel sales to other entities that re-surfaced on Tuesday at the board meeting.

“A representative from Central Petroleum will be in town later today and he and I will be discussing this new fuel system,” Fantz told the supervisors during the June 16 board meeting. “I think one of the things that you as a board need to consider is whether or not we as a county want to continue selling fuel to other agencies.”

Currently, the City of Emmetsburg purchases fuel from the county at the Emmetsburg County shed; as do vehicles from the Palo Alto County Hospital, and buses from the Emmetsburg Community School District, through the use of a key pump system. The various entities are charged the county’s price for the fuel they use, plus a small markup for system maintenance and bookkeeping, but those factors are a consideration for the new fuel system, according to Fantz.

“Keep in mind that because the county has no tanks of its own in Cylinder, we pay about $6,000 a year more for fuel for our equipment in Cylinder than we do at our other sheds,” Fantz said. “That’s why we’re going to put in our own tanks in Cylinder.

Fantz pointed out that preliminary estimates called for an expenditure of $18-20,000 for new pumps and card readers in Graettinger, $10,000 for card readers in Ruthven and about $13,000 for updated software for the fuel system in Emmetsburg through the upgrade.

The supervisors began discussing the pros and cons of making fuel available to the schools, hospital and city through the county pumps, with arguments for and against a continuation of the practice.

“If we don’t allow those people like the schools to fuel from our pumps, then they’ll end up raising their levies to cover increased fuel costs,” observed Supervisor Ron Graettinger. “The taxpayers will end up paying for it in the end, so I don’t see any reason to not let them buy fuel from us.

“I agree with that,” noted Supervisor Keith Wirtz. “Maybe we need to place a little more of a charge on their purchases to cover the upgrade and maintenance of a new system.

“Yes, can you add a little more to the charge?” asked Supervisor Jerry Hofstad, to which Fantz replied that such action could be worked out.

“My next question is do you have the money in your budget to do this upgrade?” Hofstad said to Fantz.

“Yes, it is in this year’s budget, which is why this is moving so quick,” Fantz answered.

“Is there any way you could work up an outline of how you’re going to recoup this expenditure?” Board Chair Ed Noonan asked the engineer.

“We can do that,” Fantz answered, “and we can show you usage and sales records, because we’re going to have to make a decision at some point whether or not you want to continue selling fuel.

“That would be good,” Hofstad said. “We need to see just how much we sell, and see how we can recoup our costs.”