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EGF looks at public works budget

East Grand Forks could soon have many vacancies in its public works department, director John Wachter told the City Council during a budget discussion Wednesday.

East Grand Forks could soon have many vacancies in its public works department, director John Wachter told the City Council during a budget discussion Wednesday.

He said his department lost two workers to retirement this year and will lose at least two more by June. The city has had a hiring freeze for most of the year because of a tight budget, largely from massive state funding cuts.

Wachter said many of his employees are nearing retirement age. "We're going to have massive turnover in those shops over the next couple of years."

His department currently has 15 full-time employees and five seasonal workers.



The department's 2010 budget includes $784,000 in capital improvements:

n $250,000 for street reconstruction. City Administrator Scott Huizenga said some of the money could be trimmed next year if needed, and could be replaced by dipping into the city's special assessments fund, which currently sits at $500,000.

- $150,000 for wastewater pipe replacement. Wachter said the money would be used over the next two years to take a more proactive approach. The city currently replaces pipes that are 50 years old.

- A $100,000 addition to the public works building to create a storm water and wastewater control office.

- $85,000 for a new 2-ton truck with sander and plow attachments, a $40,000 pickup and a new $20,000 dump box to be used on an older garbage truck.

- 2010 will be the first full year of automated residential garbage collection, which was outsourced to Waste Management. The switch eliminated three full-time equivalent positions in the refuse department and saves the city about $10,000 a year.

Huizenga said the savings are "close to a washout long-term," but the switch saves the city from having to buy new trucks and also shifted some of the risks to the new company.

Possible savings


Huizenga suggested eliminating a $50,000 building improvements item because most major items have been completed.

Another possibility is raising the yard waste site fee from its current $1.20 per month. He said the city takes a $25,000 loss per year for disposing of the yard waste, and raising the fee to $2 a month would cut $15,000 out of that loss.

Huizenga also suggested creating a $10,000 downtown parking lot assessment to cover maintenance costs. This year, the city has spent about $7,500 on salaries and snow removal for the lots.

But some City Council members said the businesses should also pay for storm water runoff, wastewater maintenance and other fees that everyone else is charged. "I don't know why the citizens of East Grand Forks need to subsidize that area," Wayne Gregoire said.

Huizenga said a counter argument is the city wants to keep the downtown area viable for business development and also said the city to some extent would be charging itself since it owns the Riverwalk Center.

The full City Council will meet Oct. 21 to discuss the parks and recreation, library and Economic Development and Housing Authority budgets. The final special budget session Oct. 28 will focus on water and light, the capital improvements program and administration and finance.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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