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February 26, 2021

2/12/2021 2:24:00 PM
Center City addresses major fire equipment needs

The Center City Fire Chief brought a laundry list of capital equipment needs to the city council’s budget committee last week making a case for about half a million dollars in expenditures.  

The full city council, meeting a few days after the committee, unanimously approved Chief Travis Greene’s proposal to acquire a 2015 rescue truck at a not to exceed sum of $37,000. The department is keeping its fingers crossed this unit is available, as the current one is basically down according to Chief Greene.  The chief’s Durango has been the main transportation to rescue calls lately.

Greene was hoping to finalize the rig purchase through a Minnesota broker the day after the council meeting. The unit is on the east coast, so the money allocated covers delivery arrangements as well.

The department’s tender or water tanker, is also iffy with a balky clutch and rusted chassis and, firefighters need to change out their breathing canisters and facemasks which are approaching their expiration date.  The Self Contained Breathing Apparatus  must be replaced by November.  An estimate for tank/mask and harness replacement is $150,000.

City Council member Mark Wolcott commented during the budget committee reviewal that if there ever is a good time to have to borrow money, the current interest rates are making now that time.  

Rough numbers show the city needing to have between $38,000 and $44,000 annually to make payments on a half-million loan with payoff stretched over eight to 10 years.  Wolcott added that the city sees some debt drop off in a few years, with the city hall mortgage ($12,000 annually)  and older debt to do street improvements by the courthouse scheduled to be retired.

Council will get an analysis of existing debt and best financing options at the March city council meeting.

The tender (water) rig is 30 years old and Greene had some basic specs drawn up with estimates of about $365,000 for a new one. The department is open to looking for a used one, but likelihood of finding one is rare, however.  Also rare is landing a grant, but the chief said the department keeps plugging away at applying for outside money to assist with the mounting needs.

Greene said he wants council to get the conversation going on the longer range expenditures, and  because the SCBAs shelf life ends in November, and get a plan for the capital needs.

The truck fund meanwhile, is sitting around $60,000,  so the less expensive rescue vehicle can be bought directly out of that.   “We are in a position where this (rescue rig purchase) needs to happen real quick,” he advised.

Council agreed the department should make a presentation to Chisago Lake Township, which contracts for fire service with Center City, so information could be shared on department needs and fiscal impacts to the contract can be understood.  Hazelden Betty Ford will also be  informed because the firefighter’s First Responder rescue division is dispatched to the treatment campus fairly frequently.

The committee also heard that charitable gaming revenues are projected to be sufficient to cover fire hall reconstruction project debt. Firefighters agreed to earmark a majority of pulltab money to the hall project debt.

Greene added that the fire hall reconstruction is nearly complete, with “Heritage Room” finishing touches taking place and the kitchen is almost done.

The Covid-19 virus restrictions for bars and restaurants caused a concerning dip in pulltabs activity but with the re-opening rules in place now, the chief said the pent up demand for charitable gaming has been unleashed.

The Chisago County Sheriff stopped by and introduced two law enforcement personnel who will be working the south end special hours contract patrol.  Sgt. Cliff Sheppeck and Deputy Alexis Gardener each take two days and every other weekend to serve the county contract cities on the south end— Taylors Falls, Shafer, Center City and Stacy.  The fifth day is taken care of by the regular on-duty squad and of course, anytime —inside of or outside of dedicated contract hours— a sheriff car will respond to an incident or complaint call.

Chisago City, Lindstrom are covered by Lakes Area Police. Wyoming has its own municipal police force.

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