Icy roads did not deter a dozen Kettle River concerned citizens from asking the Carlton County Board members why the grader was pulled from the Kettle River area county garage.
“A year and a half ago the Kettle River people were assured the county garage would stay open,” said resident Bob Hattenberger. “No one from the county let us know the garage was empty. Our first inkling the man and machine were gone was when we saw no tracks in the snow in front of the garage. We were shocked and angry that no one let us know.”
Hattenberger said he investigated electricity and sewer and water costs of the Kettle River garage and the cost to the county is no more than $3,000 per year at current costs. Possible extra fuel cost, he explained, is far less than running a grader from the Barnum garage and the wear and tear on the machine from unnecessary travel.
The last time a Kettle River group came to support keeping the county garage open tempers flared and comments from the audience came from several of the attendees without first being recognized by the board chair. The board’s response was to revise the board policy for visitors making comments and submitting testimony on a particular issue.
Six Kettle River residents took the podium to address the board. Assistant Kettle River Fire Chief Tom Simi pushed for keeping the garage open and noted there are a lot of local Kettle River neighbors frustrated by a possible garage closure coming after assurances earlier that it would stay open.
Rory Butkiewicz, who taped the board meeting for possible public television airing out of Moose Lake, spoke of how his grandfather’s survival after a heart attack was possible when the county plow opened a snow blocked road for the ambulance in the 1970s.
County Coordinator Dennis Genereau said the County Engineer JinYeene Neumann had earlier requested to have the new county grader temporarily stationed out of the Barnum garage to have the county’s mechanics check over the machine each day of service for any problem signs. Also, she thought it was a good time to see how long it took to service the Kettle River maintenance area from the Barnum location and possible wear and tear and extra fuel consumption.
A meeting with five Kettle River area residents with members of the Transportation Department is set for March 15 to discuss the future of the Kettle River garage.
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