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Pequot Lakes: Council not interested in forming fire district

City receives grant for fire truck, prefers to budget for equipment and trucks itself and maintain fire contracts

PequotLakesCityHallSign.JPG
PineandLakes Echo Journal file photo.

After receiving a $280,000 grant toward a new fire truck, the Pequot Lakes City Council decided to continue contracts with area communities to provide fire services rather than consider forming a fire district with Breezy Point.

Fire Chief Tom Nelson told the city council about the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant at its Tuesday, Sept. 7, regular meeting. FEMA will provide $267,000 with the city providing a 5% match of $13,000.

Nelson said he’s been trying to replace a tanker using grant funds for quite awhile. After receiving the new truck, Nelson believes the department can sell a current tanker for $20,000.

“It’s a nice boost to finally get going in the right direction as far as trucks,” Nelson said of the FEMA grant.

The department has struggled with lack of funds to replace equipment. On paper, the department knows when it needs to replace equipment and trucks; however, until now the city hasn’t budgeted funds to do so.

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Now, rather than increase fire contract costs to include money for trucks and equipment - as the council did last year - the city will start saving for equipment on its own. Sept. 7, the council agreed to include $20,000 in the 2022 budget for fire department capital equipment.

Fire contracts with the cities of Breezy Point and Jenkins, and the townships of Jenkins, Loon Lake, Moose Lake, Pelican and Poplar are mostly based on building market values in those entities. Because of that, the price Breezy Point pays is nearly what Pequot Lakes pays.

In addition to Breezy Point, Moose Lake Township has indicated concern with increasing prices and the possibility of seeking fire protection elsewhere.

Breezy Point City Administrator Patrick Wussow met with Crosslake City Administrator Mike Lyonais and Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller on Monday, Sept. 13, regarding fire services, Lyonais told the Crosslake City Council at that city’s regular meeting Monday night.

However, Lohmiller said, any arrangement would not work as Crosslake’s cost to provide service in Breezy Point would be an estimated 50% higher than what Breezy Point is paying to Pequot Lakes, or around $170,000, which does not include equipment or materials.

Lohmiller said Breezy Point is also talking to Nisswa, Ideal Township and Mission Township about fire coverage options.

Discussing a draft example of a joint fire district with Breezy Point, Nelson was wary of Pequot Lakes losing latitude in ownership of the department.

“You do lose some power in this way, and that I’m not 100% in favor of,” Nelson said, noting he wants the city council to take pride and ownership in its fire department and provide more money for equipment.

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City Administrator Rich Spiczka said the more ownership the city takes in replacing equipment, the more leverage and power the city has over contracts for area entities.

In other public safety action Sept. 7, the council agreed to hire Pat Pickar as a full-time police officer. The department had seven applications for the vacant officer position and interviewed four candidates.

Pickar has been a part-time officer for Pequot Lakes for nine years.

Police had 300 calls for service in July.

Firefighters had 11 calls in July, including four to Breezy Point, one each to Crosslake, Jenkins and Poplar Township, and four to Pequot Lakes.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

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 nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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