Columbus contracts for field care

City seeking citizens for public safety task force


Paul Rignell
Columbus Reporter

Baseball has begun at Target Field, and outdoor practices and games are soon to follow at many city parks even as early as April 15 in Columbus, where last week the City Council awarded a 2013 contract for field maintenance.

Having been hired already to mow the city’s public lawns, the company RVS Turf and Snow, based in Lindstrom, will also grade and stripe dirt diamonds for all levels of baseball and softball.

In a contract with other duties that might be handled by a park worker, RVS owner Ryan Stark will perform weed control, empty trash and recycling bins in the city parks and also clean and repair equipment and all facilities as needed.

But Stark expects most of his extra contracted time, through Oct. 31, to involve work on the city’s four ball fields. Columbus has agreed to pay Stark and RVS a total of $14,500 for the field grading (scheduled twice per week) and other park duties. The city had budgeted $15,175.

The council will review Stark’s performance and consider plans for 2014 after this summer and fall, but Council Member Jeff Duraine pushed for an earlier review at the March 27 meeting. Duraine said that based on his background of six years’ work on parks in St. Paul, he questioned the hours that Stark expects to put in the dirt.

“It doesn’t take that long to mark and drag fields,” Duraine said.

Stark said that he was giving a fair estimate to the city.

“I’m guessing this is what my time is going to be for the year,” he said. “It’s how I bid my job.”

“(Stark) will be using his own equipment, his own tools,” City Administrator Elizabeth Mursko added for the council. That includes an RVS power washer for cleaning the picnic shelter concrete and tables.

He will also be responsible for providing the fuel to run his equipment. Supplies from the city basically will include bags for pet waste and city water.

For about 10 consecutive years through the 2012 spring, summer and fall, two seasonal employees had split or shared the duties of one park worker position; both of those employees announced they would retire after 2012. Covering a maximum of 32 hours weekly throughout the park season, those employees handled the tasks for which Stark was contracted last week as well as some duties that, officials decided, would be more appropriate to be retained by regular staff.

The responsibilities that will be taken by public works staff will include parking lot maintenance, special project assistance such as for elections and the city’s Fall Fest, and tennis court maintenance.

Other business

Council approved the purchase of a 2013 Ford F-450 truck for use by the public works department, to replace a 1999 Ford F-150 that has been in service and accumulated 170,000 miles.

For a cab and chassis to come from Midway Ford, of Roseville, and a utility box and crane from Truck Utilities, of St. Paul, the city is spending $54,621.48 after budgeting $56,000. The city’s future options for the 1999 Ford vehicle include transferring use to the parks department, for which funds would be moved within the city’s budget.

City officials would like to form a public safety task force as plans continue to move away from the Anoka County Sheriff’s Department for the purpose of policing in Columbus. Mayor Dave Povolny and Council Member Jessie Messina each expressed interest in being part of that task force. They hope to be joined by a few nonelected citizens.

“Five to seven (people) would be preferable,” Povolny said, adding an early opinion: “I think our true options are in other communities, cooperating with other communities” that have established forces.

Columbus residents can call city hall at 651-464-3120 to ask questions or seek to join the task force. The elected officials are leaning toward scheduling Tuesday evening meetings.

Council members were in consensus with relief March 27 that the Minnesota Racing Commission voted 5-4 to table a request for withdrawing a racing license from Running Aces Harness Park, which is the city’s largest employer. Yet the council was not as pleased for the vote to have come so close.

At issue is Running Aces’ decision in 2012 to withhold an annual contribution to the Minnesota Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association after Canterbury Park first broke a mutual agreement, according to Running Aces officials, by forming a marketing contract with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community through which Canterbury agreed to stop pursuing racino legislation.

Columbus City Council Member Bill Krebs, in particular, seemed to pull no punches March 27 in sharing his thoughts on the Racing Commission’s priorities.

“They’re there to make sure both of these tracks are healthy, and not side with Canterbury,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of greedy horsemen down there.”