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Mission Fire Chief, residents air concerns; Supervisor Hauser stands by his letter

Mission Township residents listen Monday to the discussion by the Mission Town Board about a letter one of the supervisors sent to Crosslake. Jennifer Stockinger/Brainerd Dispatch1 / 3
Mission firefighters listen Monday to the discussion by the Mission Town Board about a letter one of the supervisors sent to Crosslake. Jennifer Stockinger/Brainerd Dispatch2 / 3
Mission Fire Chief Randy Roach (right) addresses the town board Monday about a letter Mission Township Supervisor Dave Hauser (second from left), wrote to Crosslake stating Mission residents expressed their desire for Crosslake to provide fire and emergency medical services, as Hauser, Chair Dave Anderson and Supervisor Jim Roach listened. Jennifer Stockinger/Brainerd Dispatch3 / 3

MISSION TOWNSHIP—Mission Township Supervisor Dave Hauser held his ground Monday night.

Hauser told a packed township hall that he stands by the letter he sent to Crosslake about having the Crosslake Fire Department provide the township with fire and emergency medical services.

Hauser, who also is the township's fire department liaison, sent a letter dated April 9 to Crosslake City Administrator Dan Vogt stating residents at an annual meeting want the city to provide emergency services to assist the township with daytime coverage that would also save the township money.

The letter has caused confusion in the township. Mission Fire Chief Randy Roach said he was never told about the letter and he does not support it. Roach told the township board—which consists of Hauser; Supervisor Jim Roach and Chairman Dave Anderson—that the letter is "full of falsehoods."

"We asked Dave (Hauser) about what was going on and we were told he was going to be transparent," Randy Roach said. "I guess I need to know the definition of transparent. I feel this should have been brought up to the town board and signed by the supervisors before it went (to Crosslake).

"I don't know where the facts came from in the letter, but they weren't facts."

"I felt it was," Hauser said of his letter being transparent. "I was looking into researching it for information, that's all I was doing ... The letter was typed on town board letterhead by Anna (the town clerk) and as a supervisor and the fire liaison I can write a letter.

"I did mention it before as I was concerned about expenses. Shared services and concerns about cost were brought up by citizens at the 2015 annual meeting, the 2016 annual meeting and mentioned at various other budget meetings. In the December 2016 minutes, I notified the board and public on information on shared services and again at the annual meeting so it shouldn't be a surprise at all."

Jim Roach, who is Randy Roach's brother, said the letter isn't about shared services. He said the letter states "residents at the meeting expressed their desire for Crosslake to provide fire and EMS services to the township."

"The other two supervisors here did not request that," Jim Roach said. "You were on a fact-finding mission or researching it and you should have came to them (Crosslake) to get the information and then came back to us ... The way this letter reads to me is that we are trying to get Crosslake to provide coverage and having them do our finances."

Hauser again said the letter does not state Crosslake will take over the fire department and finances and Jim Roach disagreed.

Mission Fire Capt. Eric Makowski-Budrow also spoke at the town meeting and thanked Hauser for coming to one of the fire meetings and encouraged him to continue to do so.

"You are getting the wrong information," Makowski-Budrow said to Hauser. "Come to our meetings. We are professionals here and you can see what's going on .... You say you want to be transparent, but it doesn't feel like it to us. The letter was a shock to all of us, the whole department. We know we have staffing issues and we think we can come up with solutions."

Makowski-Budrow said the fire department has been frugal with its dollars and if it needs to make cuts, the department needs to know so it can be discussed.

"We are a very, very dedicated fire department," Makowski-Budrow said. "We spend a lot of time up here trying to make these daytime calls and we're always trying to improve and adapt to make this work. We feel that (the letter) is very misrepresentative of who we are and what is actually going on and it doesn't feel transparent. I hope you can understand that. You didn't mention the letter or tell us or what was in the letter."

Hauser said he would go to the meetings as long as they were friendly and not hostile. Makowski-Budrow said they are professionals and are there to "serve at your pleasure. We want to work with you."

The audience of about 65 people clapped after Makowski-Budrow spoke.

Hauser said the appointed committee created by the Crosslake City Council met Friday and it was information only. He said they talked about what Crosslake pays for fire services, what its overhead cost is, etc.

Anderson said all Hauser is doing is compiling information. He said everything has to go through the board to be approved and can only pass with two or more votes.

"I haven't even seen the letter," Anderson said. "I don't know what's in it.

"The extent of what was in the newspaper just fuels it even further of misinformation, both sides. Both sides are giving misinformation and the more misinformation the more we get crowds like this.

"I was really surprised when I sat down with my Saturday morning paper and boom we're on the front page. Nobody called me and nobody told me you guys were doing this."

Multiple calls were made to both Anderson and Hauser—who also said he was not contacted by the Dispatch—but calls to both men were not returned.

Resident James Stevens does not support Hauser's letter.

"This is a community fire department," Stevens said. "This fire department brings the community together. Even if it costs us money, it brings the community together ... I will support the fire department as long as I am alive, no matter what the cost."

Anderson said Mission will always have a fire department.

Another resident asked Hauser why he would pick a topic that can be "so inflammatory" to the township. She said he should have been transparent on such an important topic.

"You need to ask the people," she said. "We are talking about lives here."

During the open forum meeting, one resident said Hauser's letter was a slap in the face to the Mission firefighters.

Another resident, Todd Stevens, who is a former assistant Mission fire chief, but no longer on the department asked Hauser why he was looking into having Crosslake provide services. Hauser said cost and daytime coverage were the main reasons. Todd Stevens then asked Hauser why he is looking for a solution when there is no problem.

"Should we go ask Crosslake how they fill their potholes too," Stevens said. "You need to determine a problem and that problem does not exist ... I think this is a waste of time."

Stevens also said Mission has a mutual contract with Crosslake for mutual aid, so Crosslake may automatically get called to assist Mission at a fire.

"It's always been that way," he said.

Hauser said Mission's neighboring communities could assist the township if approved by the board. He again stated he is only looking for information.

Jim Roach said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Our community supports this fire department."

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