Collison single-handedly delays purchase of salt barn replacement

By Ralph Echtinaw

With city council shorthanded by two and meeting a day later than usual, Councilman Roger Collison single-handedly held up the planned purchase of a new structure to store salt.

The city’s salt barn at the DPW yard was damaged last November by high winds. A subsequent storm displaced the rear wall. The salt was moved to the drying beds at the nearby wastewater treatment plant while options were researched. “It wasn’t a good situation all winter long,” said Public Services Director Keith Risdon.

The solution presented to Mayor Tom Reed, Councilman Bill Leonard and Collison on Wednesday was spending $275,000 on a purpose-built salt dome with a portable stainless steel conveyer four ton hopper.

Bids were solicited and received for the work. Bulk Storage of Beecher, Illinois was lowest at $275,000. Northern Sierra of Saginaw bid $329,000.

“I’ve been struggling with that all weekend,” Collison said. “It just seems like an awful lot of money to store salt.”

Collison asked for the cost of repairing the salt barn. Risdon responded: “If we rebuild this one we’ll probably end up having the same problem, or at least won’t be able to store all the salt we use.” Repairing the salt barn would be “like putting Bondo on an old car.”

Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. doesn’t usually comment on anything that’s not police related, but he weighed in on this: “There’s also a safety issue in the way they have to pile that salt in there,” he said. “They have to use a front loader to scale an incline in degree of height that it’s not intended for, which puts the operator and equipment at risk. OSHA would not look extremely fondly on that. Do we put the money toward a temporary Band-aid aid that’s going to cost us more in the long run? Or do we do it right now when we have the opportunity?”

Discussion of the proposal dragged on as several people made the case for the salt dome to Collison. 

Finance Director Bobbie Marr told Collison that a portion of the salt in the barn is wasted on account of the door being open all the time and the salt on the bottom of the pile “gets so hard that they can’t put it in the hopper.”

Another reason for Collison’s reluctance was that the insurance company hasn’t said what it will pay for damage to the salt barn. 

Marr said “We did have an insurance adjuster there, but because it wasn’t designed correctly for salt storage and because of the way it was built they have issues with how much they will give us. I think they’re going to go back on our original cost and then depreciate it. And it’s fully depreciated. So we’re probably not getting much.”

Risdon expects a salt delivery in August and would like to have the salt dome built in time to receive it. Presently, the salt is stored on the drying beds at the wastewater treatment plant, which will become a big problem as soon as those drying beds are needed for their intended purpose; drying sludge.

Since council members Liz Upton and George Kubin were absent, only Bill Leonard and Collison were left to make motions and second them. Ergo, Collison had the power to put the kibosh on the proposal.

After a long pause, Leonard said this: “Roger, do you have any more questions about the dome? Because if not I’m going to make a motion to approve the purchase.”

That wasn’t quite the end of the discussion, but the proposal was tabled until the June 21 meeting. Collison said that will give him time to do more research.

Risdon said that waiting two weeks might mean the salt dome can’t be built in time for the August salt delivery.

Combined police force with Alma?

Reed announced that Alma Mayor Greg Mapes contacted him with the idea that police forces in Alma and St. Louis could be combined. Reed said he’s against it but would bring it up to council. 

“That’s been talked about over the years; different times to to different extents,” Giles said. “And it sounds like it’s on someone’s mind again at this point.”

Leonard is emphatically against the idea: “I don’t have a badge and a gun but I know a lot about police work because of my son (a police officer in suburban Grand Rapids), and I’ve done a lot ride-alongs here in our department. That is a terrible idea. It’s borderline horrendous. It won’t work for a number of reasons I won’t go into now. If you want to do that, hey let’s go ahead and combine the high schools and we’ll call it St. Alma. It won’t work. They tried before. No no no. What’s working now works very fine. Chief (Ramereiz) will tell you that. Multi jurisdictional. Backup. Whatever. Forget it.”

Well abandonment

Council approved paying  $591,000 to Wards Excavating of Jasper Township to officials seal off and abandon several retired wells in the city limits. There were no other bidders on the job. Subcontractors will be Ed Birkmeier Well Drilling of New Lothrop, Mid-State Asbestos Removal of St. Louis and Robinson Electric & Mechanical of Riverdale. The cost will be paid for by the

Tractor story

City Manager Kurt Giles had the unenviable task of explaining a complex plan to acquire a new John Deere tractor. 

Last October council approved purchase of a new John Deere 3046R to replace an identical 2017 model that is out of warranty. The net cost to the city was going to be $24,000.

Sometime after that the idea occurred to someone that the Electric Department was using a 2011 John Deere tractor, and perhaps that was the one they should trade in. The St. Louis Hutson John Deere dealer said that could be done, but it would cost the city an additional $6,000. So city council had to approve it.

After explaining once, Giles said: “Did I make that more confusing than it should have been?” The answer was yes, so he explained a second time.

Leonard then made the following motion: “I’d like to make a motion to approve the trade in of the whatever year John Deere to the other year John Deere and whatever Kurt said.” Collison seconded the motion and the purchase was approved.

The Electric Department will get the 2017 tractor, while DPW gets the new one.

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1 reply »

  1. I thank Mr Reed for taking my inquiry regarding the exploration of enhancing our police services to the council.
    While I understand and respect the opposition of your council, I continue to believe that all of our taxpayers receive improved service, delivered more efficiently, when we combine forces.
    I look forward to continuing the great relationship between our two cities.

    Greg Mapes
    City of Alma


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