Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, June 14, 1999

Wright County balks at paying for fire protection

By John Holler

There are some moments in life that transcend time - ones that change by circumstance, but not by meaning.

Most people can hearken back to the days when a teacher asked a student chewing gum, "Did you bring enough for everyone?" The meaning of that oft-used phrase being that if one student gets away with it, a bad precedent is set for everyone else to do the same.

At the June 8 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners were faced with a similar situation.

On the agenda was a notice from the City of Hanover that the county must pay the city a $500 annual sum for fire protection services for Beebe Lake Park and Riverside Park. If the contract was not signed by June 19, the notice stated, the city would no longer be able to provide fire services.

As far as the board was concerned, the City of Hanover was chewing gum.

In the proposed contract sent to the county for board signatures, the commissioners were informed that the city would still charge the county $150 an hour for firefighting services and rescue/medical services in addition to the $500 annual charge, a fee that, according to the board was coming for no apparent reason.

Board Chair Pat Sawatzke said Hanover had requested a similar contract in 1991 for far less money - that was also rejected. He said agreeing to this contract would set a precedent for every other fire department in the county to make similar requests.

"I don't think we should go with this for one simple reason - either we should pay everyone or pay no one," Sawatzke said. "We could get Monticello or Annandale or Maple Lake to come back on us because their departments serve county parks, too. It's a fairness issue. We could end up paying every fire department in the county if it deals with county parks."

Seeing that the job of a fire department is not to pick and choose which fires or emergencies it decides to respond to, the board unanimously rejected the city's request for payment.

The board added, however, if a fire or emergency situation results in one of the county parks, the board will make payment for any service calls from the City of Hanover - but won't set a precedent of paying a contingency fee on having a fire department respond to an emergency.

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