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Snow Removal Budgets To Be Watched With Snowy Start To New Year

By Staff | Jan 8, 2010

A minor change to the Palo Alto County E9-1-1 Service Board was approved by the county Board of Supervisors in its first meeting of the New Year on Tuesday. The board also got an update on the snow removal situation from the county engineer during the session.

In the first item of business for the New Year, a new Chair was elected to lead the board. Supervisor Keith Wirtz, as Chair Pro-Tem in 2009, was slated to move up to the leadership role, but turned the reins of leadership over to Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.

“I was advised by my physician to avoid as much stress as possible,” Wirtz explained. “So, I would ask Jerry if he would accept the chair for this year.”

Hofstad accepted the nomination, which was approved unanimously, with Wirtz being named Chairman Pro-Tem for the upcoming year.

Palo Alto County Emergency Management Director Mark Hunefeld appeared before the board to explain a change in the Iowa Code that applied to the operations of E9-1-1 Service boards, specifically the number of voting delegates. The E9-1-1 Service board is comprised of representatives of the various communities in the county, along with county representatives. Prior to the enaction of new legislation, each member of the E9-1-1 Service Board had a vote, but the change in the Code now provides for just one vote per representative group.

“Currently, the county is represented by myself, Sheriff Denny Goeders, Jerry Hofstad, Dave Smith of Ruthven and Sheryl Darling,” Hunefeld explained. “With the change in the Code, instead of all five of us having a vote, our group can now only have one vote. To meet this requirement, we had to select one person to be the voter.”

Hunefeld went on to explain that for the city of Emmetsburg, which had two delegates, one for the city itself and one representing the police department, only one person could now vote, in accordance with the change. “They selected Chief Eric Hanson of the Police Department, since he’s at all of the meetings, and our group appointed me as the official vote, since I also attend all the meetings.”

Supervisor Ron Graettinger moved to approve Hunefeld as the county’s official voting member for the E9-1-1 Service Board and the motion passed unanimously.

County Engineer Joel Fantz updated the board on the county’s Secondary Road Department snow removal efforts.

“Our guys have done a great job moving snow over the holidays,” Fantz said. “But, I’m afraid it’s going to be a long winter – ugly and long. It’s definitely going to be a budget buster.”

Fantz noted that it was not uncommon for snow removal budgets to take big hits, and that’s why there were other budgetary areas in the Secondary Road Department that could help to meet snow removal expenses.

“There’s a lot of snow out there now,” Fantz said. “We’ve really gone outside the guidelines of our snow removal policy to move snow so far, like working on the weekends and such, so we’re going to need to keep tabs on what we do and when we do it, in terms of our snow policy.”

“You know, I had a couple of calls,” Supervisor Keith Wirtz said, ” and sometimes people just don’t understand just what our crews have to cover out there. But, I thought the guys were doing a good job.”

“Maybe we’ve kind of spoiled folks,” Board Chair Jerry Hofstad noted. “We’re doing too good of a job.”

“We’ll keep plowing snow, that’s for sure,” Fantz agreed. “But I fully expect we’ll bust the snow removal budget and we’re only three weeks into the season. What we need right now is a January thaw to lock that snow cover down.”

Fantz also expressed a concern to the board over property owners who push show from lanes and driveways onto road shoulders.

“We have had some incidents already where piles of snow are pushed onto the shoulder and left there,” Fantz explained. “In one case, the maintainer hit one of those piles with the wing blade and spun the machine completely sideways just like that.”

Under the county’s obstructions in the right-of-way policy, persons who place obstructions, such as snow piled on a shoulder, can be fined up to $100 per day that the obstruction is in place, or possibly be sentenced to jail time.

“We certainly don’t want to be out there handing people $100 tickets,” Fantz said. “We just ask for some cooperation in not piling snow up on the shoulders or the roadways.

In a final item, Fantz also informed the board that Mike Flaherty of Graettinger had been promoted to foreman status at the Graettinger maintenance shed to replace long-time foreman Jim Hughes, who died in December.