Fire district proposal receives state grant

The proposed five-city fire district in northern Anoka County is getting some help.

The project, which includes Bethel, Nowthen, Oak Grove, Ramsey and St. Francis, has received a $29,494 grant from the Minnesota State Fire Marshal to hire a consultant to survey the cities and give feedback on if the district plan is a good fit, said Ramsey Fire Chief Dean Kapler.

The consultant will also provide all potential benefits of the joint fire department as well as the potential issues, he said.

The 20-member fire district committee, which has only 10 voting members, approved a contract with Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) of Wilsonville, Ore., after accepting the grant Jan. 10.

The cities will have to provide a combined matching total of 11 percent, some of which will paid through staff time, Kapler said.

Each city will be paying based on its population, he said.

Of the $3,277 the cities will be contributing, Ramsey will be responsible for $1,802, Oak Grove $589, St. Francis $524, Nowthen $317 and Bethel $33.

In October 2012, each city passed a resolution committing to grant opportunities and any matching funds, Kapler said.

When the ESCI service document is completed, it will include an evaluation of the current conditions, including an organizational overview, capital assets and capital improvements programs, staffing and personnel management as well as services delivery and performance, he said.

It will also include an analysis of support programs, such as training and inspection, and opportunities for cooperative efforts, according to Kapler.

The document should be completed by June 30 and a multiple community presentation will then be scheduled, he said.

The cities have already implemented cost saving measures, like joint purchasing and training, as a result of this group, said St. Francis Mayor Jerry Tveit.

“This grant will allow us to investigate other ways that we can do more with less,” he said.

“It is exciting to see the five cities working together for their citizens to give them a more efficient government.”

Background

The Shared Services Fire Committee has been meeting since 2011.

The committee, which includes elected officials, city administrators, fire chiefs and firefighters, looked at the benefits, impacts and issues that might arise if the cities combined their fire departments into a district.

Hiring the consultant was the next step in the shared services project.

The mission is to create a unified fire service that could provide equal or better service for equal or less cost, Kapler said.

“That all five communities are still at the table talking about the possible fire district shows a sense of cooperation across community boundaries,” he said.

“There has been a great sense of cooperation.”

The whole process has created other cooperative opportunities between the community, he said.

Nowthen and St. Francis now share a building official and there have been discussions on the possibility of combining department training and purchasing as well as other non-fire related opportunities, Kapler said.

Tammy Sakry is at tammy.sakry@ecm-inc.com

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