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Baxter City Council connects for snowplowing services with a 1st for the city in terms of the contracts

Baxter agrees to a first with a minimum payment for snowplowing whether it snows or not, but contractors agree to use those hours in the summer for the parks or street department.

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City staff and representatives of LandWerx and Pratt’s Affordable Excavating talk before the Oct. 19 Baxter City Council session begins. LandWerx and Pratt’s Affordable Excavating will split snowplowing routes and agreed to a three-year contract with the city. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — While mild temperatures have lingered well into autumn, the ordinary slide toward winter is unavoidable and that means snowplowing.

For Baxter, finding a contractor willing to take on snowplow services for the city was anything but ordinary this year.

For about 20 years, Anderson Brothers Construction provided snowplow services to Baxter.

Anderson Brothers quit four years ago, saying the company wasn’t going to continue with contracted snowplowing because equipment is so expensive and they were ruining grader electronics because of salt corrosion, said Trevor Walter, public works director and city highway engineer, in an update to the city council Oct. 19.

The city sought a replacement and DeChantal Excavating, which previously quit snowplowing for winter logging, agreed to take on the work. In March, DeChantal Excavating informed the city it too would no longer be providing the services to the city as the company discontinued the service.

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When the city hand-delivered requests for proposals to eight area contractors and advertised for someone to take over the service this past summer, no proposals were received. Walter said they went back out to talk to contractors and heard two reasons for the lack of response. One reason entailed not having the right equipment requested.

“But the biggest thing was in the labor force,” Walter said, adding a couple of contractors said they would probably have the equipment but their labor force was suffering. Walter said that is heard time and time again across the whole area, that employers aren’t finding enough workers. Some contractors said they were not adding jobs but were keeping the accounts they had. Walter said they did meet with two local contractors, brought them in and talked it over — ultimately those contractors agreed to split the routes and take the job. Those contractors submitted two contracts for a three-year period. One contractor will take two routes and the other will take one route. LandWerx and Pratt’s Affordable Excavating are taking on the routes.

“It’s definitely, significantly increased over what our contract was last year with DeChantal,” Walter said, adding there is a difference in equipment.

LandWerx and Pratt’s Affordable Excavating submitted an incremental pay scale of $10 per hour increase per piece of equipment per year. Each piece of equipment is $200 per hour for the 2021/2022 snowplowing season, the city reported. For the 2022/2023 season, the cost will increase to $210 per hour and then $220 for the 2023/2024 season.

“In addition to the incremental pay scale both contractors are requiring a minimum of 80-hours of snow plowing per season per piece of equipment,” according to a report from the public works department to the council. “The average snow event requires 8-hours of plowing per piece of equipment so to achieve the 80-hour minimum it would require 10 snow events per snow plowing season. Both contractors have agreed that if the 80-hour minimum has not been achieved by May 1st, then the city can hire the contractor at the current year rate during the summer to perform work with the specified equipment.”

Walter said Pratt’s bought a used former Minnesota Department of Transportation District 3 plow truck with underbody plow and a plow wing. LandWerx's proposal included a wheel loader with a plow wing.

“So it is definitely better equipment and hopefully more efficient as well,” Walter said.

Walter said the 80-hour minimum was something the city has never done before.

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“If there is no snow, they want to be paid for a minimum of 80 hours, the utilities commission and it really was Council member Cross that pushed it the hardest, well if we don’t have the hours to use in the wintertime, can we use the hours somewhere else in the city for like parks department or the streets department in the summer at those rates. … Both contractors agreed to that at the utilities commission.”

The council also agreed and approved the contracts.

“Thanks for stepping forward,” Mayor Darrel Olson said to representatives of both companies at the meeting. “I know it has really weighed on staffs' mind what we were going to do this winter.”

By the numbers

Baxter calculated costs associated with 14 snowplow events at 8 hours per event:

  • 2021/2021 — $67,200.

  • 2022/2023 — $70,560.

  • 2023/2024 — $73,920

80-hour minimum costs per year:

  • 2021/2022 — $48,000.

  • 2022/2023 — $50,400.

  • 2023/2024 — $52,800

Source: City of Baxter.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.

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Baxter City Council members Connie Lyscio, left, Zach Tabatt, Mayor Darrel Olson and Mark Cross meet Oct. 19. Council member John Ward was absent due to health issues. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

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