The Pequot Lakes City Council learned that Mayor Tyler Gardner and City Administrator Rich Spiczka met with the Breezy Point mayor and administrator to talk about the Pequot Lakes Fire Department, which services Breezy Point and has a hub station there.
They discussed a possible future partnership, which Pequot Lakes Fire Chief Tom Nelson appeared to approach with some hesitancy.
The fire department celebrated 100 years in 2017, and he didn’t want to lose the Pequot Lakes department’s strong history and tradition. He said the department is self sufficient and contract prices with area entities the department serves are not out of line.
Gardner said the department was too self sufficient, and lack of planning to buy new equipment has resulted in the need for new trucks now. Council member Cheri Seils said that was the council’s fault, not the fire department’s fault.
Talks with Breezy Point stemmed from questions arising about an increase in contract prices for entities that use the Pequot Lakes Fire Department. The increase is to help pay for capital improvements and new trucks. Contract prices are based on structural value in the entities served.
Pequot Lakes has fire contracts with Breezy Point, Jenkins, and Loon Lake, Moose Lake and Pelican townships. Breezy Point has a lot of structure value, even though the city doesn’t have industrial structures.
Gardner said one township has announced its intent to cancel its contract with Pequot Lakes after this year to save money. He said that led to questions about the future of the city’s fire department and the need to consider options, such as a fire district with area cities and townships, or a joint department with Breezy Point.
Gardner was seeking any council input as discussions are only in an initial stage.
Spiczka said Breezy Point pays nearly the same contract price for fire services as Pequot Lakes pays. A concern is if the city loses a contract or two with an area entity, those entities that remain must pay more.
“It’s a definite concern,” he said.
He did say Breezy Point recognizes that city’s best option is for Pequot Lakes to provide fire service for the best insurance rating and response time. It comes down to the bottom dollar, Gardner said, noting people are happy with their fire service.
But he questioned the remedy, saying one of smallest townships may end its contract and another township was concerned.
“$1 to their budget is big,” he said.
Nelson said the city must educate residents about their fire service. If contracts are divided by population, fire coverage cost is less than $50 per year per person.
“People pay more for their televisions and their phones combined,” he said.
Council member Scott Pederson said if townships knew those hard numbers, they’d realize their fire service is a good deal.
Spiczka said no decision is needed now. But if an entity like Breezy Point decides not to accept the city’s fire contract, that would lead to budgetary issues. Seils said it would also lead to budget issues for Breezy Point if it started its own fire department.
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.