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Cokato City Council hears fire department updates
January 13, 2020

Nancy Dashwood
Staff Writer

COKATO, MN – Cokato Fire Chief Hutch Erickson presented his department’s annual report during Monday’s city council meeting.

Chief Erickson said the Cokato Fire Department responded to 124 calls in 2019, up from 93 in 2018.

He shared the response categories showing the most change in 2019, including weather watches, which dropped to five; and structure fires, which increased to 13.

The Cokato Fire Department provided mutual aid on one occasion in 2019, to Howard Lake. The Cokato department received mutual aid 11 times in the same time frame: five times from Howard Lake, five times from Dassel, and one time from South Haven.

Chief Erickson presented a list of recommended fire department officers for 2020. The list included Erickson, chief; Jimmy Martinson, assistant chief; James Babb, captain; Ricky Larious, 1st lieutenant; Jarod Sebring, 2nd lieutenant; and Nate Wilson, safety officer. Wilson was the only position change from 2019, and the council approved the list.

Chief Erickson commended James Winkelman for 25 years of service to the department. The council accepted Winkelman’s resignation and gave Erickson a certificate of recognition to deliver to him.

Erickson also presented three fire department applicants for council approval: Darren Kovisto, Blair Aho, and Christopher Braem.

Chief Erickson noted that while the department has “ a good pool of applicants,” there was still one open spot on the roster. Ideally, the Cokato Fire Department has 30 members on its roster.

Chief Erickson presented a list of each firefighter’s total 2019 volunteer hours. He said the report listed only official hours, and was not representative of the tremendous number of additional hours most of the members put in.

Chief Erickson concluded his remarks by telling the council the department’s new fire truck had arrived at the fire station, and invited council members to come and inspect it.

Ambulance Director Jim Erickson presented his department’s annual report. He said the Cokato Ambulance Service responded to 444 calls in 2019. “It’s been busy,” he said.

The ambulance service officers remained unchanged from 2019. Ambulance service officers are Jim Erickson, director; Marce Polzin, assistant director; Janell Martinson, secretary/treasurer; and David Nyquist and Jimmy Martinson, training officers.

Ambulance Director Erickson said the ambulance service roster has 14 members on it for 2020. “We could use a couple more, so I could retire,” he said.

Finding an interim city administrator

The council briefly discussed the process for hiring an interim city administrator. Former city administrator Annita Smythe’s final day working for Cokato was Jan. 10.

Council member Butch Amundsen questioned the council’s decision to search for an interim administrator, as opposed to simply hiring for the permanent administrator job. He also questioned the potential expense of hiring a consulting firm to locate candidates.

(The council met to discuss the administrator position Dec. 13 for 20 minutes; and again Dec. 23 for 15 minutes.)

The council discussed its intention that a hired interim would be able to find appropriate candidates for the permanent position as a part of their job.

The city has received seven applications for the interim position. Applications may be submitted until Friday, Jan. 24. Mayor Gordy Erickson and Council Member Carl Harju plan to meet to review the applications Monday, Jan. 27.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• voted against vacating the alley at Jackson and 4th Street.

• adopted a resolution approving an encroachment agreement for property located at 710 Broadway Ave.

• agreed to have Cokato Clerk/Treasurer Andrew Carlson contact Ehlers to ask when a report regarding potential financing ideas for the proposed city center road construction project might be available. The information is necessary if the council wants to proceed with the project in a timely way – ideally the project would go out for bid in April.

• approved the city’s annual appointments, which include naming Enterprise Dispatch as the city’s official newspaper.

• noted city hall will be closed Monday, Jan. 20, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday; and that a fire commission meeting is slated for Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the Fire and Ambulance Station.

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