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Council axes snow removal ordinance

Chad Gulbranson

A controversial snow removal ordinance was abolished by the Osakis City Council at its Monday, Feb. 5 meeting.

As it has for the past few meetings, the topic drew heated discussion and ultimately, council members chose to do away with it.

Prior to its abolishment, the ordinance stated that community members who live on certain streets are required to remove the snow and ice from their sidewalks within 72 hours. If they fail to do so, the city will have the snow removed and then bill the resident for the cost of the service.

Some residents along County Road 82 and County Road 3 expressed frustration at previous meetings, as well as at the Feb. 5 meeting. Those two roads lack a boulevard between the road and the sidewalk, meaning the snow from the plows being on the sidewalks creates an obstacle and is difficult to move, yet is the resident's responsibility.

"The last snow we got, where did the snow from that road go? It went right on the sidewalk," said Allan Larson, who has property on County Road 82. "Who cleaned it up? I did. Why am I cleaning the snow that you guys are putting on there? I can't take my snow and blow it in the road, can I? So why should you be allowed to take that snow and dump it on my sidewalk and say it's mine to maintain?"

Council member Justin Dahlheimer proposed the idea of dropping the ordinance completely.

"We won't fight about it every meeting and we can just act like community members," he said. "There's always the opportunity for citizen groups of the affected properties to explore creating a district and privately contracting together."

While council members agreed, Police Chief Chad Gulbranson expressed his concerns, saying keeping sidewalks clear was a matter of safety for the community.

"Now you want to dump an ordinance and make people walk on the street because you have one property (owner) here complaining about it," Gulbranson said. "You're going to change an ordinance because of a minority? To change something that is there for public safety is just ridiculous."

Despite Gulbranson's opposition, the council voted to abolish the snow removal ordinance.

Two or three squad cars?

Earlier in the meeting, Police Chief Gulbrandson addressed the council to explain that the department typically budgets to replace one police vehicle every three years. The department had budgeted to replace one this May, but the department's Ford Taurus died unexpectedly, making the new vehicle imminent.

The vehicle replacing the Taurus would be a Ford Interceptor with an approximate cost of $40,000.

Without the Taurus, the department currently has two vehicles for its three full-time officers — a 2011 Crown Victoria and a 2016 Dodge Ram pickup.

Council member Jerry Olson did not agree that each full-time officer should be provided a vehicle and voiced that the Crown Victoria and Dodge Ram should suffice.

"Something just don't seem right, Chad (Gulbranson)," he said. "Three cars, three full-time police officers. It seems like a lot, doesn't it? One car per officer?"

"If you want officers to be on call and be able to respond, having a car is kind of a big part of that," Gulbranson replied.

According to Gulbranson, having two full-time officers share the Crown Victoria, as suggested by some council members, would mean a shorter lifetime for the vehicle and would require replacement before the standard three-year interval.

"If we try to run that Crown Vic for three years by two full-time officers, it won't make it," he said.

Council member Jim Snyder sided with Gulbranson.

"Being a council member and putting my trust into our chief of police, I would take his recommendation," Snyder said. "The money is there, it's what they need, they're doing a great job. Why not?"

Mayor Emerson also agreed with the chief.

In the end, the council passed the motion to approve the purchase of the Interceptor and revisit the number of police vehicles necessary at a later time.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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