Nevis Fire Chief Kerry Swenson to retire, leaving department in ‘good hands’
By Jean Ruzickajruzicka@parkrapidsenterprise.com Nevis Fire Chief Kerry Swenson informed the city council he intends to retire within the next six months, a new chief to be elected by peers. "There's a good group of young blood," Swenson said. "I...
By Jean Ruzicka
Nevis Fire Chief Kerry Swenson informed the city council he intends to retire within the next six months, a new chief to be elected by peers.
“There’s a good group of young blood,” Swenson said. “It’s time for someone else to take the reins.” He will provide training for the person chosen.
“These are big shoes to fill,” firefighter/Nevis mayor Chris Norton said of the resignation. “He raised the standards of the department, set the bar high.”
Norton cited the grants Swenson has procured for the department, including a recent DNR grant for boots when fighting wildfires.
Swenson became chief in 2006, the grants he procured adding new gear for all firefighters, a converted tanker, funding for Firefighter I and II certification, a new Jaws of Life for the department, hoses, nozzles and more.
“He was conscious of the budget while obtaining the best available gear. It will be a big loss,” Norton said of Swenson’s “knowledge, expertise and respect he’s gained from the townships.”
Council member Heidi Raduenz wished him well. “We appreciate what you’ve done. We really do.”
Meanwhile, prior to retirement, Swenson will be pursuing grants to fund construction of a new fire hall.
“A new building would not be that much more than remodeling,” he told the council, who approved moving forward with grant applications. He indicated remodeling would result in a labyrinthian floor plan.
“If we put things together for the building project, I may come back and volunteer,” Swenson said.
He expressed optimism for the future of the department. “I’m very, very confident,” he said of the “fresh ideas’ that will emerge.
In other action, the council:
n Heard of “issues” regarding developing the fire contract budget from John Weber, treasurer of Mantrap Township.
The formula, he told the council, is a non-issue.
But he advocated the four townships served by the department play a decision-making role in the development of the budget.
“After all, the four townships are the heavy lifters,” he said, noting the four entities assumed “almost 90 percent of the fire budget payment load this year.”
Fire department budget information comes too late for individual township decisions, he said. Mantrap Township had to “hastily adopt a fire proposal $4,500 higher than expected” last year “without any supporting explanation as to why it was almost more than $6,000 more than the previous year.”
He indicated this year’s statement came in “just under the wire.”
Weber asked that the contract come under regular review and data be forthcoming.
He requested an annual meeting later than September. “A budget development process involving all five entities could have produced a proposed budget that could be discussed and adopted by the five entities at the meeting.”
Fire statements, he advocated, should include “budget materials, 15 individual years of man-hour history and a clear indication if individual amounts due include a reserve, and if so, the amount.”
Swenson, who recently faced surgery, admitted, “I spaced it out.”
“Was this the only year it happened”? Raduenz asked.
“Yes,” Weber said.
“My resolution for tonight will be to work with townships to update the contract and address issues,” Swenson said. “We will come back with a plan,” indicating a strong affinity with the township boards. “I anticipate a resolution.”
Weber lauded Swenson’s work on the department. “From day one as chief, he had a goal to leave Nevis in better shape than when he came on board. I’d say he achieved that and more.”
n Agreed to draft a new farm lease for city’s wastewater treatment facility south of the city, approximately 145 acres.
The new wording will state no more than 50 percent of the land may be plowed.
Maintenance supervisor Don Umthun indicated four or five farmers are interested, with bids to be received.
The current contract expires this year.
n Heard a request from sheriff Cory Aukes to adopt an ordinance addressing training of liquor store employees to avoid the sale of alcohol to minors.
The county board recently adopted the ordinance for liquor establishments located outside city perimeters. Aukes is now asking cities to consider its implementation.
A compliance check in 2011 resulted in 53 percent passing. “Nearly half were selling to underage,” Aukes said. “This year it’s 91 percent” compliancy.
Up until now, the employee selling was held responsible. “Now accountability falls on the establishment,” he told the council.
Aukes reviewed the ordinance’s fines and penalties, noting, “It’s a positive thing. We don’t want anyone to fail. But there needs to be accountability.”
“I agree,” Norton said. “Anything we can do to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors is a good thing,” he said, making a motion to get a copy of the ordinance for discussion at the March meeting.
n Reported liquor store earnings of $2,634 in January.
The council approved the purchase of a Panini sandwich press to expand the muni’s menu. Liquor store manager Lisa Kamrowski will attend ServSafe training and will share information with employees.
n Approved a $400 donation to the Belle Taine Lake Association to be used toward watercraft inspection and education on aquatic invasive species and water quality monitoring. The Headwaters Animal Shelter will receive $200.
n Agreed handicapped parking spaces for privately owned buildings should not be on the street, but on property itself.