At the request of a council member, Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Mahle Monday responded to accusations that the fire department is being neglected in the city's budget.
In two Open Forum letters printed in The Dispatch, Daryl Bahma said that for the past several years the fire department has been severely neglected by the elimination of capital expenditures.
"I'm finding it hard pressed to believe we are in danger because of what we do or don't have," said council member Mary Koep, who asked Mahle to elaborate on the state of the fire department, including recent grants applied for and the status of the fire department's ladder truck.
Mahle said he also was frustrated with Bahma's comments and that he felt like a political pawn.
"Do I feel that our department is properly funded? It's safe to say no and (City Administrator Dan Vogt) knows I think that," said Mahle. "For a similar department our size we're underfunded. But the other department heads are in the same boat."
However, Mahle today said people shouldn't worry that his department won't be able to fight fires. He said the Brainerd Fire Department is one of the best in the area.
"I'm a little biased, but compared to other area fire departments, we're top, bar none," said Mahle. Mahle said he wants to keep up on equipment and technology so residents can pay the least amount of insurance premiums.
Mahle noted the ladder truck works for elevated spraying, and the department is in the process of writing a grant to obtain personal protective gear for firefighters. He also is looking for funding for equipment for the new fire station in northeast Brainerd.
"You folks will have to make some hard decisions," Mahle said to the council Monday.
In other action, the council:
Presented City Administrator Dan Vogt with International City Management Association award for his 25 years of service in local government. "On behalf of the citizens of Brainerd and the council I'd like to thank you for the 14 years you've served our city," said Brainerd Mayor James Wallin.
"And hopefully many more," added Vogt.
Adjourned to a closed meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss union negotiation strategy.
Set a 2004 budget meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 21.
Was reminded that the open house for the new Brainerd Fire and Police Department buildings will be 1-9 p.m. Thursday, and the open house for the new Street and Sewer Department building will be 1-7 p.m. Thursday.
Approved, by a 5-2 vote, a lease with Minnesota Hockey Camps for use of the Brainerd Civic Center and Gold Medal Arena at $80 per hour in 2004, $85 per hour in 2005 and 2006 and $90 per hour in 2007 and 2008. Voting against the lease were council members Koep and Bob Olson.
Reconfirmed, by a 5-2 vote, $7,000 to the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Board for winter staffing. Olson and Koep voted against the reconfirmation.
Affirmed a charge of $25 for parking violations, as requested by Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc. Bolduc said there had been some discrepancies in fines when former parking enforcement officer Judy Gilbertson worked for the department. Gilbertson issued parking tickets of both $5 and $25. After she went on leave from the department, Bolduc said his officers researched past council minutes and found in 1995 the council directed staffers to implement a $25 fine, and that is what has been charged for the past year. After complaints, Bolduc said his officers further researched and found later in 1995 the council changed the fine back to $5 for downtown Brainerd. "We made a mistake," said Bolduc. The council affirmed a city-wide $25 fine for parking violation.
Adopted an ordinance establishing park dedication fees at $500 per buildable lot for single dwellings, $500 per unit for double or multiple dwellings and $1,000 per acre or 5 percent of the fair market value of the subdivision for commercial or industrial plats.
Adopted an ordinance annexing 0.78 acre of land, owned by Peter and Mildred Denis, from Oak Lawn Township.
Adopted an ordinance annexing 0.75 acre of land, owned by Asha and Mitchell Knutson, from Oak Lawn Township.
Adopted an ordinance annexing 1.36 acres of land, owned by Samuel and Janice Morton, from Oak Lawn Township.
Adopted an ordinance annexing 0.52 acre of land, owned by Darrell Mullenix, from Oak Lawn Township.
Adopted an ordinance annexing 1.88 acres of land, owned by Myron Holmes, from Unorganized Territory.
Had the second reading on a proposed ordinance to annex 40 acres of land, owned by Nick and Ardyce Dumbeck, in Crow Wing Township.
Rescinded the resignation of Brainerd volunteer firefighter Aaron Johnson.
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