When it comes to snowfall, it’s been a mild winter.  City of Crookston Public Works Director Pat Kelly said that the Red Lake River is unlikely to rise significantly because of that. “The way it looks right now, it’s probably not going to get a whole lot higher than it is right now,” said Kelly. “We can still have some significant rains or something like that, but at this point, it’s looking really good. That’s a great thing.”

Even with the low water levels expected, the gates and pump stations used during high water events will still get thoroughly checked in the coming weeks in case they’re needed during a storm. “We’ll still go through and check all of our pump motors, recheck all of our pump stations and gate closure areas,” said Kelly. “There might still be a few gates we’ll have to close and a couple of pumps we’ll have to set to pump storm runoff water over the levies. We’ll go through and check those in the next week or two to get those aligned. Right now, it gives us an opportunity to go around trimming trees and stuff like that.”

There also hasn’t been much need for the staff to be out moving snow this winter. Kelly said that has saved on overtime and allows staff to do other projects. “In years where we’re not using so many hours on snowplowing and such, those guys are doing something else,” said Kelly. “This year, we’ll see a significant amount more man-hours budgeted in the tree trimming aspect. It has cut down some of our overtime hour situations, and that obviously helps the budget.”

Although most of those winter hours are used for tree trimming, Kelly said they’ll also start some of their summer prep work a little sooner. “Generally, trimming trees is kind of our main thing,” said Kelly. “We’ll go through and get our summer stuff prepped. In a few weeks, when things warm up a little bit more in early April, we’ll evaluate our material stockpiles. Probably haul some gravel and other things in to get those ready for the summer season.”

Some projects are on pace for an earlier start this spring, but others, like patching streets, mostly have to wait until the typical production of a product begins. “As far as street patching and stuff like that, they generally don’t set up the mix plants until after Memorial Day,” said Kelly. “But, that being said, we can usually get some mix in Grand Forks. If it stays like this, we’ll be able to get out and start doing some street repairs earlier. Once the frost gets out, we’ll be able to start a little earlier on some sidewalk repairs and things like that. Another thing we’ll be able to get on earlier with the nice weather is once the snow and ice get out of the gutter lines on the streets, we’ll start getting out to street sweep the salt and sand that has been deposited over the winter.”

Kelly also said it’s a nice year to have a long summer as the city has more street improvement projects scheduled than normal. “We’ve got a fairly aggressive street repair project this year since this is our turn in the circuit to receive federal funding,” said Kelly. “We’re looking at $1 million-plus in street projects this year. A number of overlays, some street reconstructions, and redoing the bridge deck on the Broadway Bridge, so a lot of people will be happy to see that.”