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Fire district dues lowered by $106,500

Fire district dues lowered by $106,500 Fire district dues lowered by $106,500

By Kevin O’Brien

Fire protection will be significantly cheaper next year for the seven members of the Central Fire and EMS District.

Under a proposed budget passed last Thursday, the seven municipalities belonging to the district will collectively pay $106,500 less for fire protection in 2021. The cities of Abbotsford and Colby, the village of Dorchester and the towns of Holton, Hull, Mayville and Colby will pay a total of $263,850, compared to the $370,350 they’re paying this year.

This 29 percent reduction in the annual assessments comes from a combination of added revenues and reduced expenditures in the district’s 2021 budget.

On the revenue side, the anticipated revenue from the local ambulance service was increased by $65,000 for next year, from $210,000 to $275,000.

Board member Dennis Engel, who helped put together the budget proposal, said this was done to put the 2021 budget more in line with how much revenue ambulance calls actually take in every year. In 2019, for example, over $297,000 was generated by ambulance calls, and in 2018, the

See BUDGET/ Page 9 number was just under $280,000.

Later in the meeting, however, it was noted that ambulance calls are down this year, which could take a chunk out of the 2020 revenues. District chief Joe Mueller attributed to this to COVID-19, which has resulted in fewer accidents and less calls from nursing homes.

Another $20,000 was added to the budget next year as anticipated revenue from firefighting services. This line item, which was at zero for 2020, accounts for all the money charged for responding to car accidents and other fire calls.

On the expense side of the budget, the biggest cut was $25,000 in contingency funds, which was zeroed out for 2021. The line item for EMS education was also cut by $15,000, down to $10,000.

Mueller said he doesn’t plan on sending any EMTs to advanced training next year because the district is unable to recoup its costs for offering advanced service. In order to charge a higher rate to for emergency drugs and other supplies, he said the district would need to be certifi ed “advanced,” which is costly.

The big reduction in next year’s dues drew praise from board member Jim Weix, who represents Abbotsford, the single biggest financial contributor among the seven municipalities.

“I’m liking that really good,” he said, after confirming that Abbotsford’s share of the budget will drop by nearly $26,000 next year, from $103,274 to $77,612.

Board chairman Larry Oehmichen cautioned Weix and others that a oneyear drop is not necessarily a guarantee of decreasing dues in the future.

“You do understand that budgets can go down, but they can also go back up,” he said.

The district is looking at having to make some major purchases in upcoming years, starting with a new fire engine that will likely cost over $500,000.

One line item that increased for 2021 is the annual contribution for future capital purchases, which was raised from $37,500 up to $50,000.

Once the district does buy a new engine, Mueller said it will still need to have money available in savings.

“We don’t want to empty the coffers when we buy a new truck,” he said. “We’ll leave money sitting there for other things.”

Now that the district board has passed its 2021 budget proposal, each of the boards and councils in the seven municipalities will get a chance to vote on it. In order for it to be adopted, municipalities with at least 66.6 percent of the district’s total property value must vote in favor.

Other business

_ During public comment, Weix asked if firefighters were planning to make a presentation to local councils and board about possibly buying a new fire truck.

The fire board previously rejected a proposal to buy Pierce Manufacturing engine for roughly $580,0000.

“We’re looking into more actions and different trucks and trying to put something together,” Mueller said.

Oehmichen said the board will hear proposals from three or four different vendors and then vote on advancing something to the seven municipalities. He said anyone from the municipalities is free to attend the presentations put on by the vendors.

_ The board agreed not to go ahead with a plan approved in June to remove a stainless steel tank off a 1995 Ford tender at the Abbotsford fire hall and remount it on a 1992 International Harvester tender with a leaky fiberglass tank. It was discovered that the cradle on the Ford tender would cost $25,000 to repair, so the district is planning to sell that vehicle as is, and hold on to Harvester tanker until the minor leak gets worse.

_ Mueller said he’s looking at prices for installing a mechanical cot lift in one of the ambulances stationed in Colby. He said the cost, which is estimated to be around $25,000, could be covered by money not spent on training this year.

_ The district responded to a total of 58 calls between July 16 and Aug. 20, including 56 ambulance runs and two fire calls.