By Anna Jauhola
After a split vote and spirited discussion, Kittson County Commissioners approved purchasing a used motor grader during their regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
In true democratic fashion, the commissioners had a solid discussion with highway department employees whether to purchase a brand new motor grader or a used one with few hours.
Assistant County Engineer Keith Klegstad presented bids for three different graders – a 2018 CAT 140M3 with 385 hours; a 2021 John Deere 770G; and a 2021 CAT 140ME. Klegstad said the maintenance crew would prefer the John Deere machine.
Commissioner Darrel Johnson said he accompanied the CAT sales rep to Fergus Falls to look at and test out the used machine.
“I said I wasn’t going to make a decision until I saw it, heard it run, drove it,” Johnson said. “And I couldn’t tell the difference between that and the brand new one. … I didn’t think it was going to look that good.”
Shop foreman and mechanic Jason Weleski said his only problem with the used model is it’s an older machine, so when trading it in the county would get less of a value for it. And, although the used machine comes with the remaining four years and 4,000 miles of its warranty, the new machines both come with 72 months/6,000 hour warranty.
Johnson said the year of the machine doesn’t matter when trading in, the hours, model and accessories make the difference. Usually, the county trades machines when they’ve reached 10,000 to 11,500 hours.
Commissioners Leon Olson and Corey Wikstrom hesitated to agree to buy a used grader, Wikstrom particularly pointing out the little savings between used and new.
The used grader is $222,030 with the option of adding on 2,000 to the warranty for $10,419. The John Deere grader bid was $250,387 with the 72 month/6,000 hour warranty, included.
“You’re only saving $8,000 in the end. It’s not much more to have a new machine,” Wikstrom said. “I get a little nervous about used ones.”
Commissioner Loren Younggren said he wasn’t excited about purchasing a brand new machine under such a difficult situation.
“I thought, in a tight budget year that I guess I’d like the idea of a used one,” he said. “If it was a normal year, I’d probably say let’s go new.”
The used CAT machine was a rental, Johnson said, and he doesn’t believe it was misused by renters.
“Some guy didn’t trade it in after 380 hours and said, ‘This is a piece of junk,’” Johnson said. “It’s the cleanest machine I’ve seen with any hours on it.”
Olson made a motion, and Wikstrom seconded, to purchase the 2021 John Deere 770G, to which Johnson replied – “I think that’s wrong.”
“Well, I really think that’s right,” Olson replied. “I’m glad you checked (on the used one) but if something happens, this one is covered, and it’s cheap.”
In a roll call vote, Wikstrom and Olson voted yea, while Johnson and Younggren voted nay, with Commission Chair Theresia breaking the tie with a nay vote.
“I think the used CAT with the extra warranty is worth it,” Gillie said. “I think in the end, CAT will step up to the plate when we trade it in.”
Johnson made a motion to purchase the used 2018 CAT 140M3 and Younggren seconded the motion. All commissioners voted in favor.
Outside security cameras
In light of the possibility of mail-in ballot tampering across the U.S., the commission voted to purchase security cameras to place outside each entrance of the courthouse. Knowing it is a busy season, the commission – with advice from Wikstom, who works for Wikstrom Telephone Company – approved purchasing one camera now specifically for the southwest door to monitor the dropbox.
Wikstrom abstained from the vote.
“We’d like at least one camera to be installed so we can see the dropbox and the parking lot before the election,” said Sheriff Mark Wilwant. “I could see the liability if someone makes a claim that the ballots were messed with and we don’t have a camera on it, they can say, ‘No they weren’t.’”
Currently, several of the security cameras are serviced through Wikstrom so no new system equipment will need to be purchased, only the camera, cable and labor.
Marilyn Gustafson, county administrative coordinator, said the quote came in at $67 an hour for labor, $250 for the camera and 25 cents a foot for the Category 5 cable.
“If we had an incident in the courthouse, it would be really nice to tie a person to a vehicle,” Wilwant said, noting the current outside camera outside the sheriff’s office only partially shows the parking lot. “If we have them at all four entrances so we can also see the street and the parking lot … if there’s a car close by we can tie the two together.”
The commission then discussed and approved a CARES grant agreement for election expenses. Gustafson said the money within this grant will cover purchasing and installing the camera over the southwest door.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved the group Medicare renewal for 2021. Commissioner Olson abstained.
• Approved unorganized township levies. Klondike will be $1,500; McKinley $3,000 and Peatland, zero – these are unchanged. North Red River Township, however, is not doing well at $115,000 in the red. The township should be reimbursed for water and flood damage by FEMA, so that number will go down, but the it will not fully eliminate the debt. The commission approved a $30,000 levy for North Red River.
• Approved paying $4,900 for an annual membership with AMC Human Resources Technical Assistance. This was free due to the Association of Minnesota Counties receiving a grant, but that grant sunsets in 2021. Since COVID-19 started, Deb Costin, who handles payroll for the county, has used the service to help keep track of everything.
• Approved Hope Sele to manage the county website at no additional stipend.
• Approved participating in the Northwest Radio Grant, SECB, which will help entities in the county procure new radios.
By Anna Jauhola