Written by MARK JAEGER
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 17:00
Supervisors balk at county’s guaranteed partnership agreement that promised $250,000 in spending
Town of Saukville officials delivered a one-two punch to the Ozaukee County Highway Department on Tuesday.
First, the Town Board unanimously rejected the county’s two-year road maintenance agreement, which would have guaranteed that the town would spent $256,000 with the county over the next two years on road projects.
A few minutes later, the board unanimously voted to contract with Jim’s Maintenance for snow plowing of town roads. The Grafton company also has the plowing contract with the Town of Port Washington.
The new contract runs from Jan. 1 to May 1 of next year, but Town Chairman Barb Jobs told representatives from the company the agreement may be seen as a test drive.
“This is putting these guys on the hot seat to see how they do. Hopefully, it will lead to a longer contract next time,” Jobs said.
The company is to plow town roads whenever there is more than a two-inch snowfall. The contractor will be expected to have roads passable by 5 a.m. following an overnight storm, with two lanes of traffic to be cleared by 7 a.m.
Snow banks are also to be kept in check at all intersections so drivers’ vision isn’t compromised.
The town will prioritize which roads are to be cleared first.
Town officials lauded the contract offered by Jim’s Maintenance because costs are clearly spelled out in advance. Trucks with 11-foot plows will be billed at $90 an hour; it will cost $105 an hour for trucks with 12-foot blades and loaders with 11-foot blades.
Town officials have repeatedly said the county’s billing practices lack transparency, creating uncertainty about costs until a final bill is received — sometime months after the fact.
They have been especially critical of the county’s revised approach to road maintenance agreements, which it has titled the Guaranteed Work Partnership.
The new approach was designed to ensure the county has sufficient income to keep a stable workforce in the highway department.
However, Saukville officials blasted the inflexibility of the program.
Especially concerning, they said, has been the county’s insistence that the town be held responsible for making its annual payment even if requested work does to reach the projected level.
In addition, town officials objected to the county’s refusal to credit the town in future years if its highway spending should exceed the minimum projection for a year.
“We’ve beat this issue to death and basically got nowhere,” Jobs said.
“After the towns of Fredonia and Belgium approved their contract, they essentially told us ‘take it or leave it.’”
The issue is particularly sticky for Jobs, because she serves on the Public Works Committee as a county supervisor. That committee oversees the operation of the Highway Department.
Her position with the county did not come into play when the town’s road contract was up for consideration.
“I am not signing a contract for $250,000 with the county without having our legal counsel review it first to see if it is a good contact,” Jobs said.
“It may not seem like much with the county’s budget, but to me a savings of $1,000 or even $500 is a big deal.”