Watab Township Emergency Services Study: This is a Watab Township Issue
How the Process Started:
On March 14, 2017 at the Watab Township Annual Meeting, "Craig Gondeck gave an update on the status of the Rice Fire Contract. He said that he was sorry to report that all the township has is a contract extension for another three months. He had asked the city council for a decision, but they wouldn’t make one at their March meeting. He thanked Pat Spence and Maureen Graber for giving an excellent presentation to the Rice City Council in February. Now, he said the township is levying over $100,000 for fire contracts; people are constantly having medical calls and not paying their bills, and the township can’t keep on writing off bills and raising taxes. Jason Kruger asked if the township could have its own department since Rice holds all the cards and won’t work with us. Craig said that the board would consider that or try to set up a sub-station. John Olson said, “This has gone on for years, and it is tiresome. I make a motion to instruct the board to come up with an alternate to having a contract with the City of Rice and to provide fire and rescue services in a new way. Motion was seconded by Maureen & Ken Graber. Dick Raveling said the township has space to put up a building for a couple of trucks, ambulance space, get used fire trucks, try to get trained under another department, and greatly improve response time to three or four minutes. He added, “We need to do this now.” He also said he would volunteer his time to help and thinks that Sauk Rapids has more open-minded people to work with. Lloyd Erdmann said he would be in favor of investigating another option, but additional funds might need to be levied to get something off the ground. Roxanne Wilson asked if the board had given up on the option to pass an ordinance that would allow the township to assess unpaid bills on property owners. Craig Gondeck said that the board hadn’t discussed it since the opposition at the Public Hearing on the ordinance. Moderator Saldana called for a vote on the motion; it passed unanimously." April 4, 2017: Chair Gondeck recommended and was given authority by the Town Board to set up a Citizen's Committee "to work with the board on researching the township' options; he has talked with several townships that have their own fire protection either independently or as a sub-station. The State Fire Marshall's Office has a free consultant who would meet with the committee and give recommendations." He was given authority to set up the committee and set a May 15th meeting at 7:00 p.m. Committee members who have served from May 15th to current time are Ed Kacures Jr., Jason Krueger, John Olson, Bob Raveling, and Dick Raveling in addition to the town board members. They have met with Tate Mills, State Fire Marshall's Office Fire Service Specialist, Gold Cross Ambulance; Mike Couri & Bob Ruppe, Attorneys who have assisted other townships set up fire departments; management of Gold Cross Ambulance Service; Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck; Todd Hagen, Watab Financial Advisor from Ehlers, Inc.; and visited and met with representatives of a few local township fire departments.
Why Watab Is Considering This:
Rising costs for emergency services; uncertainty of future costs; historic issues regarding calculations for Rice contracts; 76% of Rice emergency calls not reimbursed by those receiving services over past three years; lack of options for collecting unpaid bills from rental property owners; Rice charges for cancelled calls; and City of Rice's refusal to drop medical call first responder service or negotiate in good faith.
November 14th 9:00 A.M. Meeting Minutes November 14th 7:00 P.M. Meeting Minutes
Fire Departments Visited: Chain of Lakes Fire District near Richmond; Baldwin Township near Princeton; Palmer Township Substation of Clear Lake Fire Department; Wyanett and Princeton Fire Departments - Wyanette Substation of Princeton.
Budgets: (Click on each one to link to budget)