STILLWATER, Minn. - The MnDOT snowplow fleet will likely feature fewer new trucks this winter. The reason? Safety improvements at the Stillwater state prison.
The death of a corrections officer inside the prison this summer has caused a big change in the state's inmate work program, which is now having a ripple effect at MnDOT and even the DNR.
MinnCor Industries, which has provided metal fabrication within the prison for decades, has announced that Stillwater inmates will no longer be producing those products.
A Department of Corrections spokesperson tells KARE 11: "We evaluated our offender work programming and determined light assembly activities to be better suited to the security level of the facility."
"We know the human toll," said James Grebenc, MnDOT Snowplow Fabricator Supervisor. "I know the guys at MinnCor, I know a few of them there, it's tough on them."
But MnDOT also had to quickly move on. Though there is no danger of a plow shortage this winter, it could mean fewer new ones make it on the road in time for snow removal.
"We do 57 trucks a year," said Grebenc. "It takes roughly 6-8 months to build a snowplow truck. Realistically, we won't see these trucks out on the road until next spring."
Grebenc said MnDOT has been working for a few weeks to secure new, private contractors, but they are still trying to determine what it will cost to finish work on the 54 remaining 2018 trucks, let alone future bids. The MinnCorr contract cost MnDOT $550,000 a year.
"We've never bought (the parts) from the private industry so it is a new change to all of us," Grebenc said. "It may not cost us that much more, and it may, we don't know those numbers yet."
The Minnesota DNR is also dealing with uncertainty. They've typically spent about $200,000 a year with MinnCor to build all of the public access docks you see across the state, and they tell KARE 11 they're still unsure where that contract and money will flow next year.