Park Rapids Fire Dept. seeks lower required run percentage

Fire Chief Joe Carlson brought the proposed change forward during discussion of the firefighters' handbook on March 28.

Park Rapids Fire Department apparatus, pictured April 27, 2022.
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo

Park Rapids Fire Chief Joe Carlson fielded questions from the city council March 28 about a proposed update of his department’s firefighter handbook, notably reducing the required run percentage (the annual amount of fire calls to which they respond) from 75% to 45%.

At the same time, the revised handbook would also put teeth into this requirement by making it a condition of their annual pension contribution. The current 75% requirement is not being enforced, Carlson said.

He presented a table comparing Park Rapids with several other Minnesota cities, noting that departments enforcing higher run percentages saw an effect on firefighter recruitment and retention. He cited a nationwide trend where these numbers are dropping.

Carlson said that even at 45%, his department has a couple firefighters who will need a little encouragement to make their numbers. He speculated that firefighters with young families may find it more difficult to meet higher standards of attendance.

Meanwhile, he said, there are several firefighters to actually manage to attend 80% to 100% of calls.


Asked why the firefighters are asking for a 45% threshold rather than something lower, like 20-25% as seen in some cities, Carlson said, “We strive to be better than most,” and said they’re trying to strike a balance between what’s fair to the people whose run percentage is high with keeping a full roster, which helps the department obtain money for firefighter training.

Council members, Carlson and City Administrator Angel Weasner also discussed other handbook changes that are still in progress, including some issues regarding compensation for run attendance.

Mayor Ryan Leckner noted that the city council is also planning a joint meeting with township board members whose communities share in the cost of the fire department, to address increases in insurance rates, and possibly planning to have an annual meeting with the townships served by the department.

Weasner said the date of the meeting is yet to be determined.

Park Rapids HRA

Council members voiced a consensus supporting Weasner’s desire to ask the Park Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority to put out a request for proposals (RFP) for executive services, as the current contract expires this year.

Weasner noted that she has been putting out RFPs for a lot of the city’s contracts.

The PRHRA, administered through Cass County, operates the city-owned, subsidized River Heights Apartments.

Leckner reasoned that an RFP would ensure the city is getting a fair contract. He also noted that the city has had some problems with getting current management to provide the kind of financial information that the council would like to see.


“We could also work on that change, too, if we keep them,” he said. “I think this is a good way to start it, and make sure we’re getting the right deal.”

“That would be one of the requirements in the contract,” said Weasner. “We’ll update the contract.”

More topics

In other workshop discussion, the city council also:

  • Agreed to schedule a joint workshop with the city’s planning commission, following a regular meeting instead of before it, to allow discussion to continue as long as necessary.
  • Clarified that monthly council work sessions will be at 5:30 p.m. before the second city council meeting of the month, unless more time will be needed and if so, at 5 p.m. Weasner invited council members to request work session topics, and Leckner suggested a longer session for strategic planning.
  • Heard Weasner report that a personnel policy regarding salaried employees’ contributions to their healthcare savings plans will be brought to the council for approval at their next meeting. She noted that three of the city’s bargaining units (police and public works) already have plans and that, once this policy is in place, all salaried, non-bargaining employees will be required to have one. 
  • Heard in advance about topics for upcoming workshops, including a special assessment policy to be approved after the Fair Avenue project is complete, bonding for fourth-quarter street projects and approval of a city sales tax.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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