Committee makes choice for new home of expanded Cokato Fire Department

November 19, 2007

Right now, fire trucks and equipment are ordered based on how well they fit into the old overhead door

By Lynda Jensen

If all goes well, the Cokato Fire Department will have a new home in a much-needed larger fire hall along Highway 12, pending Cokato City Council action.

The department narrowed down a list of properties to four, with the top choice being 2.5 acres along Highway 12 and Third St. E. priced at $283,000.

This location will offer good access from all directions with good snow removal, could act as a storm center for the public, and would give a good first impression of the city, according to information presented to the council by the fire department.

It is currently zoned commercial, and the city council approved signing a purchase agreement with the property owner for the land.

Three other properties considered were 1.4 acres at Seventh St. and Broadway Ave. for $164,000, a location along Swendra Ave. which the CDC vetoed, and a fourth location of four acres along North County Road 3 for $170,000.

Criteria used for the land choice included lot size, location, availability, accessibility, and future city growth.

The station will allow room for multiple training, hosting local and county activities, and most importantly meet fire and EMT needs.

The existing fire hall is so small that the department has to order new trucks and equipment based on how well it fits into the overhead door and hall itself – sometimes within one inch of space, commented fire department member Kelvin Nelson.

“We also have little to no room for training,” he added.

The lack of training space is a more serious problem than some may think because calls are rapidly changing in modern times, Nelson said.

Not too long ago, the department used to busy itself with chimney fires, but now, they find themselves responding to numerous car accidents.

“You can’t just respond (to an accident) and tear apart a car anymore,” he said, noting that modern cars have many electronic components that make it more difficult to extricate someone.

Originally, a committee was formed in 2003 to search for the new fire hall location, and was composed of fire personnel, a city council member, and residents of the community. However, it didn’t go anywhere for some time until it was reformulated in 2007.

The newly formed committee was composed of Mike Holmquist, Ken Bakke, Jim Erickson, Kelvin Nelson, Mark Dahlman, Jeff Carlson, Russ Irvin, Lyle Severson, John Erickson, Council Member Wayne Murphy and Mayor Bruce Johnson.

The committee started out with a list of 12 locations, which were eventually narrowed to four.

The council set a closed session to discuss the land purchase of the new fire hall for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3.

Wastewater treatment plant expansion discussed

The council turned its attention to expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, which has been discussed in the past.

Engineers were on hand to recommend adding a pond cell to the city’s current pond system, which would be the cheapest and most efficient way to expand. The cost is estimated to be about $4.4 million for the project.

They also reviewed the need for expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, which is being prompted by growth and future permit effluent limits.

The city has been speaking with Peter Forsman of Forsman Farms, which contributes to the city’s effluent load. The school and Faribault Foods are two other heavy users.

The subject will be pursued further at its next regular meeting, 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10.

Mumford speaks with council about recycling

The council also heard from Glen Mumford of Howard Lake, who questioned the council on how serious it was in changing recycling services to Waste Management.

He pointed out that he hasn’t increased rates in years and that there’s been few complaints. “Obviously, it’s not price,” Mumford said. He also disputed whether a competitor could actually recycle items under wet conditions. Council members said they assumed all the haulers were doing it correctly.

Some council members noted that it was due to the convenience of single sort recycling that they were interested in something else. “We haven’t made a decision yet,” commented Council Member Gordy Erickson.

Murphy encouraged Mumford to forward any additional information to the council that might be needed to make a decision.

“They have deep pockets and I’m just a small operator,” he said. Mumford Sanitation serves Waverly, Howard Lake, Cokato and the City of Kingston.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved a contract with the Wright County Sheriff’s Office for $56 per hour for 2008.

• certified the utility accounts collectible in 2008. Murphy warned that utility rates will probably increase next year.

• set the Truth in Taxation hearing for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3.

• heard from Johnson that council committee appointments need to be thought of, and that he’s heard from only one council member about them.

• referred the previous ATV ordinance language to the police commission for further study. Murphy wondered if more laws were necessary since it appeared that existing statute covered the issue. It was noted that only one city in the county, Buffalo, had an ATV ordinance.

• heard from State Rep. Dean Urdahl, who was making his usual rounds to area councils and boards. Johnson asked him about a gas tax, and Urdahl noted that it was an unpopular tax, but that roads and bridges needed to be repaired, too.

• heard a presentation from the building inspector, who will be cutting back his hours and setting a sliding scale into place for his services due to the housing slump. His business is down 33 percent, he said.

• heard from librarian Mary Ackerman about the Cokato library’s space issues, but asked her to return to the next meeting Monday, Dec. 10 to further expand the subject due to the number of presentations at the meeting, which caused it to be lengthy.

• accepted a restated agreement with the Sherburne/Wright County Cable Communications Commission, which gives member cities more control in an environment that is more competitive now than in 1985, when the commission was formed.