Fire Chief Terry Long told the Park Rapids City Council on Tuesday that his department is looking for a replacement for the brush truck it has on loan from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to aid in wildland fire suppression.

Long said that though the current brush truck – an early 1980s model Chevy pickup – remains DNR property, its maintenance has been the fire department’s responsibility.

“We’re starting to see a lot of small mechanical things going wrong with that,” he said, leading the fire board to discuss using donated funds to buy a replacement vehicle.

Council member Erika Randall urged Long to obtain the city council’s approval for the purchase, at least to ensure that the vehicle is listed on the city’s insurance schedule.

Randall recalled past issues with vehicles being purchased without the city council’s knowledge. She stressed that, as the new vehicle will be city property, its maintenance and insurance costs will ultimately be the city’s responsibility.

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Long agreed, noting that the fire department is still in the process of shopping for a vehicle.

The fire department had 15 calls from January through July, he said, “and now, we’ve got about 15 a month since then. We’re probably going to be ahead of normal for that (period). … It’s been real busy lately.”

Change in HLDC direction

Council member Tom Conway announced that the Heartland Lakes Development Commission (HLDC) board voted last week to terminate its contract with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission (HRDC) to provide administrative services for the HLDC.

Effective Friday, he said, “we will no longer be administered by (the HRDC). We will be a standalone economic development commission.”

Liquor store, airport updates

Rapids Spirits manager Scott Olson said the municipal liquor store “had a very busy September … the busiest September we’ve had in 10 years.”

Olson said the upward trend in sales continued in October.

City treasurer Jeremy Jude reported having a “rather lengthy conversation” recently with the Federal Aviation Administration and TKDA, the municipal airport’s engineering firm, about the airport’s capital improvement plan.

“There’s going to be some rather substantial capital investments for some of the things they want to do out there,” he said, suggesting that the council hold a joint work session with the airport commission to discuss their budget priorities.

“There are some large maintenance items,” said Jude, “and there are some things I would call ‘wish list’ items, more cosmetic,” like the arrival-departure building.

He said a lot of federal and state dollars are potentially available for these projects, but he estimated the city’s share at approximately $2 million during the next five to seven years.

“I think the council should be involved in the planning, looking out,” he said, “rather than, ‘What do we have to spend next year?’”

Randall, who serves on the airport commission, said she will discuss Jude’s proposal at their next meeting, 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2.

Council members also discussed activating a paid Zoom account and equipping city hall to support online video conferencing.