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In 2011, the Park Rapids Fire Department responded to 65 calls, which is much lower than other years. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Fire calls cost questioned on alarms

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One request to waive a fire call charge was denied and another will be considered at a future Park Rapids City Council meeting.

Evon Spangler, who has a cabin on Finesse Drive near Dorset, asked the council to consider waiving a $500 fire call charge incurred after the Park Rapids Fire Department responded to a fire alarm at his property.

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"The fire alarm was the result not of a fire, but due to my brother's pounding in of a board that was loose. The fire alarm went off unexpectedly, and he hit the code, which in the past has cancelled the alarm," Spangler wrote in a letter to the council.

The Fire Department arrived at the property just as they were called off because there was not a fire.

"The fine is not reasonable or rational under the circumstances, and therefore, I request that it be waived," Spangler wrote.

He added that because of the fine, he has instructed his security company not to dispatch fire trucks if the alarm is cancelled.

It has been the city's policy to bill a property owner if the trucks leave the Fire Hall. The $500 fee is set by city ordinance.

The department incurs expenses each time trucks are dispatched, Fire Chief Donn Hoffman noted in his comments and recommendation to bill the property owner. Two vehicles and 11 men responded to the fire call.

Councilman Pat Mikesh, who is also a fireman, said it's an unfortunate situation, but the property owner could have made a call to dispatch to say there was no fire. He also said it was the standard rate and needs to be charged out. A malfunctioning alarm is not the fire department's fault and it must recoup expenses, he said.

The council denied the request to wave the charge.

In a related matter, Judy Teiken, who has a home on County Road 18, about 3 miles from Park Rapids, said she had an incident May 8 when her alarm went off and she was unable to make it stop. She did not have a fire at her home, she said.

After trying several times to shut off the alarm she called 911 and asked for help in shutting off the alarm. Teiken said she told the dispatcher there was no fire and she only needed help with the alarm.

A sheriff's deputy and electrician were dispatched to her home. Shortly after, three fire trucks arrived.

She also received a $500 fire call bill.

"I think it was an outrageous bill for no emergency," Teiken said. "I was expecting an officer, not three trucks."

Teiken made calls to surrounding fire departments and the charges for calls were less expensive, she said. She added that she wouldn't have called dispatch or asked for even an officer to come to her home if she knew there would be a charge.

Mikesh explained that it takes more resources to make a call to a rural home because there is no hydrant system. Tanker trucks need to be dispatched as well.

It was suggested that instead of calling dispatch in these situations people should call the electrician or security company.

The council did not take formal action on Teiken's request to waive the fee because her specific issue was not on the agenda. She was told to submit a written request to City Hall for consideration at a future meeting.

The council discussed posting the costs for fire calls on its website or possibly alerting the public through other means.

In other business, the council:

n Approved having Touch of Eden complete Phase I of a landscaping improvement project for Pioneer Park in downtown Park Rapids. The cost of the landscaping, materials, labor, plumbing and electrical is $16,850.

The council previously expressed interest in having landscaping additions and a shelter in place before the 2013 Governor's Fishing Opener next spring. It was discussed to have work begin in late August after most of the tourist season.

Rotary is interested in working with the city to purchase the shelter for the park as well but no decisions have been made.

n Approved a public facilities use permit for the Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council to use Pioneer Park Friday, Aug. 17. The permit was approved with a caveat that the group working with Touch of Eden contractors in case the park improvements have started.

n Approved the 2012-16 Capital Improvement Plan. The CIP is a working document that outlines projects needed in the city.

Some upcoming projects that have been pushed back for years included street seal coating as well as utility projects such as Discovery Circle and the Riverside area.

The CIP is not set in stone but is used as a guideline for the city.

n Awarded a bid to Kuechle Underground for $143,586.80 to construct a watermain looping system on County Highway 6. The bid came in about 30 percent lower than estimates.

n Changed the first council meeting in August to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15. The meeting needed to be rescheduled due to the primary election Aug. 14.

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Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
(218) 732-3364
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