Council invited to meeting to discuss fire service
ZUMBROTA — An invitation to attend a Fire Board meeting on Aug. 7 sparked serious discussion during a Zumbrota City Council meeting on July 12. A lawyer, hired by the townships, will attend the Aug. 7 meeting.
The city was asked to contribute to the cost of hiring attorney Bob Ruppe, who specializes in fire contracts, annexations, and planning and zoning development, but City Administrator Neil Jensen said, "I told them we have our own attorney, and he will do just fine."
Jensen said the first visit by the townships' attorney is gratis, and Jensen was under the impression that the townships wish to get as much done as possible at that first meeting.
Council member Sarah Durhman asked, "That’s why they want all of us there, so we can make a decision right then? That won’t happen no matter what. Why would they want to make a decision that quickly?"
Council member Dale Hinderaker agreed. "I wouldn’t be up for making decisions at that meeting. I’d have to think about it first."
Jensen advised council members that the city should contact the Fire Board as soon as possible to let them know that it would be a waste of time and money if their lawyer pursued a one-vote-per-member joint powers agreement.
Mayor Rich Bauer agreed.
"If the city is going to pay 50 percent to 60 percent of the costs based on our property values, I’ll never vote for that," Bauer said. "We need to flush it out. It is a non-starter. If we all pay an equal amount, then we could have an equal vote.
"My opinion is that the Pine Island model is what we should lean towards. It would work out best for everyone."
Pine Island has a rural fire association owned by the townships, and the city owns the fire hall.
Jensen suggested the city lay out several options for the townships. The options would include the city’s wishes concerning voting, using the Pine Island model, or possibly going with a regular contract. He told council members to send their ideas to him. Those ideas will be discussed further during the July 26 city council meeting. Jensen will then contact the Fire Board to let them know what is acceptable to the city and what is not.
Later, Jensen presented a preliminary budget for 2013. In it, he had increased the amount the city puts toward fire equipment by $20,000 a year, for a total of $30,000 each year.
The city had put aside $10,000 towards fire equipment for the past few years because of cuts to Local Government Aid. Jensen said Zumbrota will know more about how much to allocate when an agreement is reached with the townships. He suggested using a one-time LGA contribution to pay the city’s portion of the proposed pumper truck, a suggestion made earlier by council member Brad Drenckhahn.