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East Gull Lake explores fire contract options

The East Gull Lake City Council has given the Brainerd Fire Department notice that the city may terminate its contract for fire protection at the end of 2014.

East Gull Lake Mayor Dave Kavanaugh said the council may still contract with Brainerd, but it is required to give a one-year notice before terminating the contract.

“What we have to do, we have to give a one-year notice under the terms of our contract. We gave the notice and we’re going to just explore different options for this upcoming year,” Kavanaugh said.

The city of East Gull Lake will take this one-year time period to discuss fire protection contracts with fire departments from Nisswa and Pillager. Those fire departments are roughly the same distance from East Gull Lake.

“We are going to take a good hard look at that and see if either one of those fit, and we’re also going to enter into discussion with Brainerd to look at trying to shave some costs off what our contract is right now. It might be possible, it might not,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh said the city has been contracting with Brainerd since before he began working with the city more than 11 years ago. He said the fire department responds to an average of six calls per year in East Gull Lake.

“It’s primarily a cost issue. Brainerd’s got a fine department. I’ve told that to the chief numerous times. This certainly doesn’t reflect at all on Brainerd Fire Department. They have an excellent fire department. Overall, with the service we’ve been provided, we’ve been happy with it. But when you look at the limited amount of calls we’ve had and a cost we have on an annual basis, that’s right around $10,000 a call,” Kavanaugh said. “That’s rather steep. I know we’ve got to provide service for our residents, but I know when we’ve talked to other departments we can shave those costs down considerably.”

Kavanaugh said preliminary contract prices have been roughly one half of the current price, though there are other factors to consider.

“The only change, and this is one of the things we have to look at, is that Brainerd is a full-time department. Their response time is excellent. Usually within a minute or two after a call comes in they are responding,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh hopes to have contract negotiations done within the first six months of 2014 so budgets can be prepared in time. The Brainerd Fire Department will have a fire association meeting in January where some of these discussions can continue.