Dear SFL residents,
Our early snowfall totals are fast mounting and Winter hasn’t even officially arrived! I have been forwarded several Facebook postings regarding dissatisfaction with Sunfish Lake snowplowing service. Several complainants indicate that right across the street from Delaware in the Mendota Heights Copperfield area the streets appear to be well plowed. Given the significantly smaller population and tax base of Sunfish Lake (540 versus 11,200) it is not possible to provide equivalent plowing services. In order to provide similar services, SFL property taxes would need to more than quadruple.
I spoke with the City Administrator of Mendota Heights who provided the following:
“The City of Mendota Heights has:
- 4 manned plow routes for streets, which utilize single axle dump trucks with front and wing plows.
- 6 smaller trucks (a combination of 1 ton and pick-up trucks) which do routes consisting of cul-de-sacs, trails, and city parking lots.
- In the case of a heavy snowfall, we have also used a 3 cu. yd. end loader, which is slower, but can move drifts and will be pressed into service on streets in major events.
Of course, we also have MNDOT and Dakota County crews which do State Trunk Highways and County roads.”
Mendota Heights has a public works department with full-time employees. Sunfish Lake has no public works department and our only part-time employees are our City Clerk and Treasurer. Mendota Heights owns plows, must finance ongoing maintenance and employs full-time public works employees with the attendant costs of health benefits, pension etc. A city of 540 residents simply cannot afford a public works department with full-time employees to do round-the-clock plowing. The City Administrator of Mendota Heights informed me that it’s Public Works Department budget for 2020 is more than $2.1 million. Sunfish Lake’s total budgeted revenue from property taxes in 2020 is $531,724.
We annually seek bids for our snowplowing services. This year we requested bids from seven snowplowing contractors. Four expressed interest in supplying a bid, but ultimately only one contractor (the same contractor we had last year) submitted a bid. Given that SFL does not have the manpower capacity nor finances for around the clock plowing, and since last year’s services were deemed satisfactory within our available finances, we awarded the contract once again to Executive Contractors Inc. In order to provide faster response to residents, Craig Kromrey, Chief Executive Officer of Executive Contractors Inc. has a direct email for citizens to contact him immediately with any snowplowing issues on their street. He has been responsive to requests and is doing his best under the terms of our contract to keep our roads plowed as well as possible.
Sunfish Lake has a Snowplowing Policy which we will add to the City’s website. The policy states; “The City; however, does not guarantee bare, dry pavement after each snowfall or that streets will be totally free of ice and snow or driving hazards common to Minnesota winter weather.”
I trust that all residents recognize we are a designated “Tree City”, and as such we are surrounded by canopies of beautiful trees. Unfortunately, in the winter months they present a problem on roads like Salem Church Road as these roads have long stretches of little if any sunshine to assist ice melt that builds up in spite of sand and salt application. In speaking with staff, a possible assist to the snow and ice build-up would be to substantially trim all trees on the south side of Salem Church Road and similarly affected roads to allow more sun to radiate on the road. This action would substantially alter the “look” of Salem Church Road without a guarantee that it would substantially impact the problem. Our Forster stated in order to have any significant impact, the undergrowth shrubbery would need to be removed leaving all residents on the south side of Salem Church Road or other similar streets without any screening from noise, light from traffic and view of vehicles. I ask all residents to consider the impact on their neighbors of any action just as they consider the impact on themselves. Our Forester and Engineer indicate that, because of the very large mature trees on the south side of affected streets that would not be removed, the potential benefit would be limited. I welcome citizen input on that suggestion in order to determine if we should pursue a cost analysis.
While we love the many advantages of our unique City, snow removal presents a constant challenge and Minnesota winters don’t make it any easier!
The City Council has continually emphasized in our meetings that public safety is of the highest priority. However, we need the help of every resident to accomplish this priority by adjusting their driving habits to the conditions of the road. In the winter, this means – SLOW DOWN – and be especially cautious at intersections!
We will continue to seek to provide the best snowplowing service available within the finite resources available. I thank you all for your understanding that SFL has some limitations. Please drive safely as you navigate the hazards of winter weather in Minnesota.