Second request to raise Nisswa firefighter retirement relief benefit to $5,700 wins approval

Nisswa City Council also adopts preliminary general revenue tax levy that shows 19.11% increase

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NISSWA — Eight months after being denied, the Nisswa Fire Relief Association again filled the Nisswa City Hall council chambers with nearly 20 firefighters to ask the city council to raise the firefighter retirement relief benefit amount from $4,000 to $5,700.

The council unanimously granted the request this time.

Firefighters accuse three council members of not supporting them. Council says it's looking out for taxpayers.

Mayor John Ryan said the city has been working on this issue with the fire relief association. The five items the council wanted to see done are complete. Ryan said they are:

  • Communication: He and the city administrator have been attending fire relief association meetings.
  • Recruitment and retention plan: The fire department is looking at that.
  • Capital improvement plan: This is in the works and will take time.
  • Bylaws: These are completed and updated with what the council sought.
  • Timeliness of audit submissions: This has been handled with deadlines met.

The relief association board already had raised the benefit amount to $5,500, as was allowed.
Retiring firefighters will now receive $5,700 per year served after 20 years as a lump sum. Funds are also a death benefit for families of firefighters who die.

The council’s worry in January was that the city would assume liability if the stock market crashed, the fund got too low or if many firefighters retired at the same time.


An independent investment firm - Stifel in Baxter - manages the funds, with no funding requested from the city.

Council member Mark Utzinger said raising the benefit amount still worries him because a recession is predicted.

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Council member Jesse Zahn, participating remotely from California, said those men and women in front of the council put their lives on the line for Nisswa residents. He advocated approving the request and supporting the city’s firefighters.

Council member Don Jacobson said this is one thing the council can offer to help its firefighters, who are there to help others in need.

Jacobson was absent when the vote in January was taken, and Zahn wasn’t on the council then.

Ryan said this is also a retention and recruitment tool.

Preliminary levy

In a special meeting Monday, Sept. 26, the council approved a preliminary general revenue tax levy for 2023 of $3,318,405, which is 19.11% higher than this year's levy.

The council will hold a truth in taxation meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20, before the council’s regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. The early meeting is for people to comment on or ask questions about the city’s proposed budget and tax levy for 2023.


Find a more complete story about the Sept. 26 meeting in the Oct. 5 Echo Journal and at

Planning and zoning

The council unanimously approved the final plat of Roy’s Landing, a proposed development of six single-family residential building sites on 26.5 acres off Bass Lake Road and Roy Lane.

Jethro Carpenter is the applicant. TM Investments is the owner.

This has been a contentious issue as some nearby residents have opposed the development. After hearing from a few residents, Jacobson said the planning commission has worked on this development for a year and a half, which is more time than any other proposal that he’s aware of.

People’s questions have been answered, but the answers aren’t what some want to hear, he said, making a motion to approve the final plat.

The council also approved the final plat of Nisswa Crossings, subject to the developer signing the final agreement. Nisswa Crossings is a proposed development consisting of 22 single-family residential building sites on 15.7 acres that will be served by a shared private water system and municipal sewer system.

Thomas Dehn is the applicant; Terra Vista Developers Inc. is the owner.


Public safety

In September, police had 212 calls for service, issued 13 traffic citations and 116 traffic warnings, made five arrests and had 24 emergency medical services calls.

In August, firefighters had 46 calls, including 41 EMS calls, one mattress fire, two fire alarms, one tree on a powerline and one car crash.

In other business Sept. 20, the council:

  • Heard an annual presentation from Brian Farrell, manager of Spirits of Nisswa municipal liquor store. He said 2021 was the best year ever for Spirits, and this year numbers are close to last year’s.
  • Agreed to extend a summer pay increase for Spirits of Nisswa part-time employees through the end of the year.
  • Learned the Pickle Factory raised more than $19,000 for the Nisswa Fire Department at the annual fundraiser.
  • Renewed an impound contract with Heartland Animal Rescue Team for 2023.
  • Approved an ordinance amendment to remove the requirement to get a permit to obtain temporary signs for certain zoning districts: central business, highway business, and commercial waterfront.
  • Agreed to continue to move forward with shoreland ordinance revisions.
  • Approved the annual performance review for City Administrator Jenny Max.

Find recordings of Nisswa City Council meetings on the city's YouTube channel.

Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or . Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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