By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — County roads don’t stop at city limits, and Mankato has long maintained those roads and billed Blue Earth County. Likewise, the county has deep expertise in running elections, and the city has need of those services.
Both contracts are now being re-negotiated, and hefty price increases appear to be in the offing.
The elections contract, worth $9,000 a year, hasn’t been changed since 2006, Taxpayer Services Director Patty O’Connor said. She is seeking an increase to about $12,000.
O’Connor wants to raise the pay of election judges, who now make $7.25 an hour.
“These people work hard, as we all know,” she said.
She’s also trying to get a stipend to reimburse the election judges for the use of their private phones.
Other costs for running elections have also increased, she said.
O’Connor said it makes sense for counties to operate elections for their cities.
“It seems foolish two blocks apart from each other to have two election centers going,” she said, referring to Mankato’s proximity to Blue Earth County.
That, however, isn’t the norm in south-central Minnesota. For example, New Ulm, North Mankato and St. Peter operate their own elections.
The city and county are also negotiating a contract for city vehicles to plow county roads within the city.
“It wouldn’t make sense for county equipment to drive out there,” County Engineer Al Forsberg said.
The county’s payments would more than double if, as has been discussed, the contract changes from a per-mile cost to a per-lane-mile cost. The unit cost, $1,530 a mile, may stay the same.
Costs to maintain Stadium Road, for example, would triple because that stretch of road has three lanes.
Forsberg said he accepts that change.
“It better reflects the actual work that’s done,” he said. He also said this method of allocating funding is slowly catching on in other funding systems, as well.
Also in the works is a plan to transfer county-owned drainage ditches within the city limits to city control.
They function essentially the same as the rest of the city’s rainwater drainage system, so it makes sense they fall under city control, Forsberg said.
Before a handover occurs, the city and county will together inspect the ditches and decide how much work the county should do. The city is seeking to avoid a case of buyer’s remorse if the drainage ditches turn out to need a lot of work.
The city and county will be reviewing the contract changes over the next few months.