The Houston County Board of Commissioners voted to purchase a used mechanic's truck for the Highway Department at its meeting on Jan. 8.

The vehicle will replace a lighter weight truck that Maintenance Foreman Tom Molling described as "overloaded to the point that tires and brakes are wearing out."

"Our current truck is a 2003 Chevy 3500 with a box and small (1,000 pound) crane," Molling reported.

"It's a 12,000 GVW truck, and the last time we weighed it, it weighed 16,200. There really isn't a lot wrong with this truck, it's just too light."

Molling said that a used (2003) GMC C 6500 commercial truck with box, jib crane and welder would be a much better fit, since over 80 percent of the department's repairs are done on-site (along the road or at the job site). The bigger vehicle is 33,000 GVW with a 10,000-pound crane.

"Just the drum of hydraulic fluid that our mechanic has to load up weighs over 700 pounds," Molling said. "He also has to carry a lot of hydraulic hoses and fittings for different makes and models of equipment. I would say that the fittings he's carrying around are worth more than the truck."

"Is this a need or a want?" county resident Chuck Schulte asked.

"With safety issues, in my opinion it's a need," Molling replied. "The truck is over weighted, the brakes aren't capable of stopping that truck anymore."

Chairman Justin Zmyewski asked if the current vehicle might be lightened by not trying to carry so many parts?

"We took out $300,000 of the general fund last year and $200,000 this year," he said.

"We've added 6 percent to the taxpayer. We have to make that money up somehow. I'm going to be very much against the purchase of anything this year because of the fact that we've dug ourselves a deep hole."

Commissioner Teresa Walter said that the $34,000 price tag (a budgeted expense) was a good value, considering what the larger vehicle was worth.

Prior to making a motion to buy the vehicle, Commissioner Steve Schuldt said he agreed with Zmyewski's comment on spending, but added, "I don't like letting things go."

Seconded by Walter, it was adopted without a "nay" votes as Chairman Zmyewski only votes to break a tie.

Legal files to be transferred

The board signed a request for files relating to the county's legal work performed by attorney Jay Squires, who represents them on land use issues, be transferred to his new firm of Rupp, Anderson, Squires and Waldspurger (Minneapolis).

Squires will continue to do the same work at the same rate, commissioners stated, but the files remain at his former law firm.

Printing bids opened

The Spring Grove Herald was chosen once again to serve as the official county newspaper following a sealed bid opening. Three other newspapers in the county sent bids to provide the service.

Commissioners asked Auditor Char Meiners which bid would be the least expensive for the county to use for required postings, and then voted without further discussion.

Appropriations made official

Commissioners voted to officially approve contributions to 13 agencies totaling $215,635. That represents a $14,559 increase over 2012 and includes such diverse support as $37,000 for the Houston County Historical Society, $130,490 for SELCO (libraries) and $10,000 for Semcac's RSVP program.

La Crescent opposes collections

Noting correspondence from the City of La Crescent that as of Dec. 31, 2013, the city will no longer collect household fees that support county drop sites/recycling facilities, commissioners agreed by consensus that they should schedule a meeting with city representatives.

As of Jan. 1, 2013, the monthly household fee was increased from $2.50 to $3 per month per household.

While townships typically levy for the money, cities usually add the charge to utility bills, Environmental Director Rick Frank reported.

Township resident asks for records

Black Hammer Township resident Conrad Curren asked commissioners why his request for public information has been denied?

Curren stated that he was seeking zoning records, and felt that he was denied access because he was part of the "Landowners Concerned about Property Rights vs. Houston County" lawsuit.

Zmyewski replied that he would investigate the matter and let Curren know if the information will be withheld, and if so, what justification the county has to do so.

Meeting schedule approved

The board approved a tentative schedule of meeting dates for the year. Commissioners will next meet the following Tuesdays on Jan. 15, 22 and 29 with a start time of 9 a.m.

Typically, the board doesn't meet on the fifth Tuesday, but with the New Year's holiday on the first Tuesday of the month, the board did not meet that day.