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Pequot Lakes: Fire department service contract discussions continue

Council told that cities and townships that contract with fire department want a "seat at the table"

Pequot Lakes bobber tower May 2021.JPG
The Pequot Lakes bobber water tower (May 2021)
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Discussions continue regarding the Pequot Lakes Fire Department’s contracts with area communities, particularly Breezy Point, the Pequot Lakes City Council learned at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, June 1.

Mayor Tyler Gardner, City Administrator Rich Spiczka and Fire Chief Tom Nelson met with Breezy Point officials, and Spiczka said discussions included forming a fire district or a joint fire department, or working cooperatively in a different way for fire services.

The Pequot Lakes Fire Department provides services to three cities and four townships. All entities pay a contract price based mostly on their building market values.

The total contract amount for 2021-2022 is $285,430, which includes fire relief amounts. Total contributions per entity are:

  • Pequot Lakes: $102,238.

  • Breezy Point: $101,918.

  • Jenkins Township: $20,797.

  • Loon Lake Township: $20,382.

  • City of Jenkins: $17,652.

  • Pelican Township: $12,541.

  • Moose Lake Township: $5,225.

  • Poplar Township: $4,673.

Contract prices rose from last year because the fire department needs capital equipment, including a truck. Spiczka said contracted entities that provide money toward equipment worry that they’ll contribute that money for equipment that will never help them if they ever drop out of the contract.
They are willing to invest money if they have a seat at the table to make decisions, he said.

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Nelson said Pequot Lakes and Breezy Point are similar, and it would be worth exploring a joint powers agreement. Breezy Point has more residential property while Pequot Lakes has more commercial property. Breezy Point’s building market value in 2020 totaled $329,534,290 compared to Pequot Lakes’ $179,984,181.

Council consensus was to keep discussions going.

In a memo to the council, Nelson wrote: “The Pequot Lakes Fire Department has been required to follow the city’s request of 0% increases for many years. This has ended up financially hurting us and putting a heavy burden on those entities that we contract with.”

From 2017-2021, building market values increased from $540,328,937 to $724,308,738, for an increase of $183,979,801.

In that same time period, the fire department’s operating budget increased from $190,000 to $213,000, for an increase of $23,000 in five years. The average increase in fire apparatus and fire equipment is 10% each year.

“The zero perent increases requested by the city have to stop,” Nelson reiterated in his memo.

He shared the following numbers:

  • The total fire contract for 2021-2022 is $285,430, which includes the portion that goes into the relief fund.

  • The total permanent population for the fire department district is 6,600.

  • Per capita spending for the fire department is $43.25 per person. If taking seasonal residents into consideration, that number would be even less per person.

Council member Scott Pederson was absent June 1.
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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