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Equipment and funding issues will lead to greater discussion on Willmar's street-sweeping process

WILLMAR -- Last year, the city hired a local private contractor to provide additional street sweeping services. This year, no money was budgeted for additional sweeping services, the City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee was told this week.

Committee member Ron Christianson asked Public Works Director Holly Wilson about the status of Cleaning and Restoration Services of Willmar, which provided the additional sweeping last year.

Wilson said the company was hired on a one-year contract.

The contractor was hired in hopes of removing finer materials with a vacuum-type street sweeper. City officials considered the possibility of buying a vacuum-type sweeper to augment the city's broom-type sweeper, but Christianson suggested the council consider hiring a private contractor with a vacuum sweeper.

Wilson said the contractor's machine did not perform as anticipated. She said it lost suction around storm water catch basins and in areas where the street surface was not level, had low areas and cracks. As a result, the city decided not to buy a vacuum sweeper.

"We learned that it is not the type of sweeper that we want to buy and no additional money was budgeted in 2011 for additional sweeping,'' she said.

In addition, the contractor's cost was greater than the city's cost to sweep the streets, according to a summary presented by Wilson to the committee last December.

Christianson requested the committee discuss street sweeping at the Tuesday afternoon meeting. Christianson said he did not think the cost comparison was fair. Christianson said the contractor was used only once instead of three times.

Committee Chairman Doug Reese said the city had looked at the possibility of buying a vacuum-type sweeper, but the city found the sweeper did not do the job that officials thought it would do.

In other business, the committee discussed information from Wilson about removal of trees on Third Street Southeast. Wilson said the discussion was requested by council member Jim Dokken. Dokken said a citizen asked why the trees were removed. He said the resident thought the trees were in good condition.

Wilson described the removals as typical tree maintenance. She said the trees were aging and were losing branches. One had a hollow interior, one was rotted out and a couple of trees had holes and would eventually become a hazard.

She said none of the trees had emerald ash borer. She said residents have the option of selecting replacement trees.

City Administrator Michael Schmit urged the committee to respect the judgment of the Public Works staff members who receive training in tree maintenance.

In other business, the committee recommended the council hold the assessment hearing for 2011 street work on May 16.

The city opened two bids Tuesday for street construction; the low bid of $1,796,223 was submitted by Duininck Inc. of Prinsburg and the high bid of $1,921,164 was submitted by Chad Monson of Willmar. The council will be asked to approve a construction contract in early June.

Also, Wilson said she had not heard of any complaints about the council's closing of Pacific Avenue Southwest between Seventh and 10th Streets.

Pacific was permanently closed to the public at the request of the Municipal Utilities Commission, which is planning power plant improvements there.

In miscellaneous business, the committee was urged by resident Joe Ridler to consider the use of concrete for street reconstruction.

He asked the city to study the possibility.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150