Township residents ask why elected officials getting free snowplowingPublished 10:59am Monday, March 19, 2012
At least one township is grappling with whether a five-year practice is legal or ethical.
Residents of Leaf Mountain Township questioned the practice of officials using public equipment to clear snow from private driveways, primarily those of the township leaders, during its annual meeting last week.
The “perk” began about five years ago when it was offered to a clerk to keep the person in office, according to Karen Tolkkinen, a Leaf Mountain Township resident who was among those questioning the practice.
“They claim other townships are doing it,” she said.
But Art Dorn, a township official, said the primary reason for the practice was to allow him or others to be quickly available to help road maintenance crews if they encountered trouble.
“We have an old snow plow and it breaks down,” Dorn said.
Last winter, for instance, the wing of the plow broke and it was quickly fixed to allow the driver to get back to work, Dorn said. It would have taken a couple hours to clear his drive to get to the driver otherwise, he added.
At least one other township clears private residents’ driveways as well. However, according to Bonnie Mark, clerk for Dane Prairie Township, the township bills those individuals for the work performed.
According to Otter Tail County Auditor Wayne Stein, the use of equipment is a township matter and not under the jurisdiction of the county.
To the credit of Leaf Mountain Township leaders, they plan to look into the matter, said Tolkkinen.
“There is a training for township officials in a couple weeks, and our township officials said they would ask that question,” Tolkkinen said.
She is not against the practice, she said, she just wanted to know if it was legal or ethical.
The money township officials receive for their service is “a pittance,” she said, adding maintenance crews do a good job maintaining the township roads.