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Fire district offers to insure Abby building for less

City council to address proposal at next meeting

An insurance company used by the Central Fire and EMS District is offering to insure Abbotsford’s public safety building for about $1,700 less than what the city is currently paying.

MacGillis Insurance Agency of Verdonia says it can cover the entire building, which includes the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department and the Central Fire’s station 2, for a $3,437 annual premium, according to Larry Oehmichen, chairman of the fire district’s board.

The city is currently insuring the building at a cost of $5,096 through Spectrum Insurance, with 75 percent of that cost, $3,828, being billed to the district for the fire hall portion of the building.

If the city were to switch from Spectrum to MacGillis, the district would save about $1,250 in 2020 and the city would save $409.

Under the district’s insurance proposal, the maximum payout would be $6.5 million for the entire building. The city currently insures the building at a value of $5.1 million, but the structure is slated to be reassessed next year.

Oehmichen said the district will need to give its insurance agent a copy of the lease agreement between the city and the district, making it clear the district rents the building from the city. Abbotsford would then be listed as an “additional insured” on the insurance policy, he said, and the district would bill the city for its portion of the premium.

The district already insures the fire halls in Colby and Dorchester even though it doesn’t own those buildings. Abbotsford’s situation is a little more complicated because the public safety building includes both the fire hall and the joint police department.

When Oehmichen first floated the idea of the district insuring the building in November, city administrator Dan Grady raised concerns about the district insuring a building owned by the city.

Ald. Roger Weideman, Abbotsford’s representative on the board, said he would bring the MacGillis proposal to the city council for discussion at its next meeting on Feb. 3.

“We’ll get the ball rolling and see if we can make something happen,” he said.

_ The board voted to spend $1,500 to amend a FEMA grant application so it can be used for turnout gear or selfcontained breathing apparatus (SCBA) packs for the next round of funding. The district applied for the same grant last year in order to pay for SCBA bottles, but it did not receive any money, so it had to buy $81,000 worth of bottles on its own.

District chief Joe Mueller said he’s heard that some district members would like to include a new fire truck in this year’s FEMA grant application, but he thinks the chances of that succeeding are “slim to none,” based on what he’s heard from other fire chiefs.

“I know people write them all the time, but I’ve never heard of anyone getting one (for a fire truck),” he said.

Mueller said the SCBA packs cost between $6,000 and $7,000 apiece, but that’s with the bottles, so they’d probably be about $1,000 less each since the district just got new bottles.

Oehmichen also suggested adding turnout gear to the list of items that could be purchased if FEMA approved a grant for the district.

The district will have to pay $1,500 to a consultant at FireMed Grant Solutions in order to amend the application, but Oehmichen and other board members thought it was worth the cost.

“One of these years we’re going to get it,” he said. “It’s like pulling the handle on a slot machine.”

_ Mueller asked the board to consider paying for retirement gifts for those who have served as local firefighters for at least 20 years. He said the firefighters associations from each of the three old departments used to spend about $500 to buy a ceremonial axe for retiring firefi ghters, but he thinks it really should be up to the district itself to cover that cost.

“It should come from the community,” he said, referring to taxpayers.

Mueller said he knows of at least one longtime firefighter who plans to retire in the fall, and he expects several others to in coming years, but he doesn’t think the yearly cost to the district would be that much.

Weideman volunteered to look into prices for ceremonial axes and report back to the board at its next meeting.

_ Mueller said the district responded to 41 ambulance calls and five fire calls between Dec. 19 and Jan. 16. One of the fire calls was at the Wausau Street apartments in Colby. He said one of the tenants used a fire extinguisher to put out a flourescent light that caught on fire, but the building still had to be evacuated.

For all of 2019, the district responded to 87 fire calls and 742 ambulance calls, which is three less EMT calls than in 2018.

_ The board approved $15,660 in monthly bills and a separate $81,115 bill for the 85 new SCBA bottles that recently arrived.