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Perham council buys new $160,000 grader

A new road grader costing nearly $160,000 was purchased, cautiously, by the Perham City Council at the Dec. 8 meeting.

Concerned about the loss of Local Government Aid as the state wrestles with a budget deficit, Mayor Kevin Keil questioned whether "it was a good time to spend a lot of money on something we don't absolutely need."

The state is facing a deficit of nearly $5 billion over the next two years, and there is talk in St. Paul about "unallotment" of aid to cities. Perham receives more than $500,000 annually in Local Government Aid from the state--all of which could be cut.

But Merle Meece, city public works director, successfully argued that the grader was a wise purchase now--but delay purchase of a new snow plow-dump truck rig.

"The transmission is weak and the engine is weak," said Meece, regarding the city's present 23-year-old grader. "It is really showing its age, and we don't want to see it go out in the middle of the winter."

The city has a back-up plow truck, but not a grader. If the old grader failed, it would cost as much as $5,000 a month to lease a unit.

The council discussed the possibility of buying a used plow-truck, and limping along another winter with the present grader.

But Meece said that, given a choice, he would prefer to have a new grader as a priority.

"We view it sort of as an emergency vehicle," said Meece. After a severe snowfall, the grader is almost a necessity in plowing large volumes of snow. "If we can't get through with the grader, nobody gets out."

The winning bid was from St. Joseph's Equipment, Elk River, at $156,480. The city was given $18,000 for its present grader.

The council voted unanimously to purchase the grader, but to negotiate for the longest term loan for the lowest possible interest rate, which was the recommendation from the city's financial officer Karla McCall.