Jack Russek of Delano is looking forward to taking a short walk from his Bridge Avenue home to Delano City Hall to get to work rather than driving to the Wright County Courthouse in Buffalo.
After 20 years as a Wright County Board member, Russek will sit in a different seat after Jan. 1 — that of a Delano City Council member.
His experience in local government might be unique, because he soon will have experienced budget cycles at three different levels — as a Franklin Town Board member for eight years, as Wright County commissioner representing Delano in the old District 3 and as a new Delano City Councilor. So far he has 28 years in government budgeting.
And guess what will be and has been a major topic of conversation at all three levels. How about roads, roads and roads.
Russek experienced country roads — many of them gravel — while operating a dairy farm in Franklin Township. Then he retired from farming and moved to Delano with its asphalt-paved streets. And he witnessed approval of Wright County’s first concrete highway, County Road 3, which is expected to be completed next spring.
Because of the rising price of oil, black top prices “have escalated” to the point where the bid price is almost the same as for concrete, he said. But Delano does not have enough traffic to require the solid foundation of concrete. However, concrete does last longer and requires less maintenance.
Russek was asked about the costs of roads to taxpayers. Would it help if Delano went to gravel roads to save money? “With gravel roads, the dust will drive you crazy,” he said.
In Delano, “we’re going to have to get on with the streets,” he said. He wants to look at the city’s plan for street reconstruction and maintenance. He also does not believe in special assessments for streets because everyone uses them.
Also, Russek thinks that special assessments do not make financial sense for Delano. They are designed to have owners of benefiting properties pay 30 percent of their proportion of the project cost. But it might cost Delano that much more to do a feasibility study, determine property values and decide that the benefit of a project will exceed the cost of assessments to property owners.
“Thirty percent special assessments are a losing proposition for everyone,” he said. “We do need to get streets fixed up. This is one of my top priorities.”
He also is looking forward to supporting the effort to bring businesses to Delano, so that the community has more jobs close to home.
“Businesses are like government,” Russek said. “Every time we’re going to spend money, we have to ask what will it do for us?”
So he thinks that discussing economics is a key to talking with businesses considering location in Delano.
Looking back on his County Board career, he does not take credit for most things. They whole County Board was “pretty much involved” in decisions and projects, thus making them a team effort.
Russek liked the way County Board members were able to work together and compromise. “You win a vote. You lose a vote,” he said. “Just because someone else doesn’t think like I think doesn’t make them all wrong and me all right.”
He is proud of Wright County’s accomplishments while he has been in office. One of them is spring clean-ups, during which residents can bring unwanted items and hazardous waste to the county compost facility on County Road 37 in Monticello. A couple of years ago, residents brought in a humungous number of computers and television sets in the space of a few hours. At one point the waiting line was a mile long.
Russek’s favorite individual accomplishment was being a charter member of the Crow River Organization of Water, the organization that is behind the annual fall Crow River clean up. “We’ve put a lot of money into the Crow River,” he said.
Now that his new job will be in Delano, Russek is looking forward to have time to travel. As a Wright County Board member, he had weekly meetings on his calendar, and he missed, at most, 10 meetings in 20 years. As a City Council member, he will be able to travel between meetings, which are every other week.
And time with his woodworking hobby, wife Renata, two daughters, nine grandchildren and the rest of his family is beckoning.