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Dixon’s street department could be expanded

City’s final budget workshop March 31

Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

DIXON – This winter has been hard on residents and the city’s infrastructure, but it has also taken a toll on the street department’s budget.

During a budget workshop Tuesday night, the Dixon City Council discussed adding a position to the street department and increasing its budget for overtime, among other items.

On March 31, the council will work to cut down its budget during a final workshop. The budget will be placed on file during the April 7 council meeting and then approved before the end of the fiscal year, which is April 30.

The overtime budget for the street department for the current fiscal year was set at $5,500. Earlier this month, the department had already spent $30,378 in overtime, as employees worked to clear the roads of snow.

Commissioner of Streets and Public Improvements Jeff Kuhn said the city has 10 routes for plowing, but there were times this winter when there were only five or six plows running at a time.

Because the street department has seven employees, Kuhn said, the department borrowed workers from the water department and wastewater treatment facility when it could. But when a water main broke, those employees had to return to their usual duties.

“There were times we were extremely understaffed,” Kuhn said. “People were having to do two routes, anything to try to get it done. So one more person in there would be very beneficial.”

A street department employee is expected to retire at the end of June, and Kuhn requested that the city fill that position and hire an additional employee. With salary and benefits, the additional employee would cost the city about $65,000 a year.

The budget proposal discussed Tuesday night increased the street department’s overtime budget to $15,000. Kuhn didn’t request a larger increase, he said, because it’s too difficult to predict what the weather will be like next winter.

The street department also asked for two new dumptrucks, which cost about $125,000 each, Kuhn said, because its current fleet is getting old, and the cost of repairs is increasing.

Decisions on personnel for various city departments will happen during the next budget workshop, said Commissioner of Accounts and Finance Dave Blackburn, who led Tuesday’s meeting.

“We’re probably forced to prioritize a little bit.” he said. “I think it was wise last year to move cautiously and not add a lot of personnel until we figured out exactly what the revenue would be, and what we could afford.”

Public property building

The City Council and department heads also discussed the possibility of a new public property building located in the cemetery, which could cost about $2 million.

Commissioner of Public Property Colleen Brechon said the department couldn’t wait another 2 or 3 years for the city to make a decision.

“No other department has such an outrageously dilapidated building and storage facility,” she said. “Absolutely nobody else in this room right now works in conditions that those guys work in. That building is falling down around them.”

Commissioner of Public Health and Safety Dennis Considine said the city might be better served to think of the big picture and the possibility of a central facility for city departments rather than investing $2 million in the cemetery.

The building could be discussed during strategic planning meetings about the leftover funds from the settlement with the city’s former auditors and the sale of former comptroller Rita Crundwell’s property.

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