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Northfield City Council Work Session - May 22, 2012

May 24, 2012 at 8:10 am
By Jane McWilliams

City Fire Apparatus Update:  In early 2011, the city fire department underwent reviews first by the Operational Health and Safety Administration and later by consultant Michelle Soldo. These reports included the condition of the city equipment as well as the department’s operating procedures. The discussion at this meeting is in the context of those reports as well as that of the city’s safety facility planning.

Fire Fighter Mitch Dewar, representing the seven members of the Truck Committee, first reviewed the department’s apparatus age, condition, replacement costs.  The city owns three firefighting trucks with an average age of nearly 29 years. Mr. Dewar noted the maintenance cost, safety issues and obsolescence of this equipment.  The two rescue vehicles are newer, having been purchased by and the VFW and city rescue squad members and donated to the city.  The committee proposed a five-year replacement schedule including estimated cost for the trucks and ambulance. The first item is the 1978 Hendrickson 50” aerial ladder, which would be replaced in 2013 for $750,000. Currently, because of concerns about the strength of the floor in the public safety center, one apparatus is stored offsite.  A replacement ladder truck would fit into the current apparatus bay.

Safety Center Retrofit:  Mike Clark, DLE Group Consultant explained how structural support of the current safety center could be constructed at an estimated cost of $300,000 to allow for additional equipment.  Although the design for the new facility on the Cowles property provides for a future fire department, the present plan is for the safety center to remain home for fire fighting equipment “for the immediate future.” Councilor Patrick Ganey, noting that the council has not decided how long the fire facility will remain at the present location, asked Mr. Franek whether the fire department would rather make the corrections to this facility or build a similar layout in another location.  Location is a major concern, Mr. Franek replied.  Access to the highway is best at the present spot and would be even better should the city acquire additional property for an expansion.

Mayor Mary Rossing asked why the SOP study was not ready for this meeting as directed earlier this year. According to Firefighter Sean Simonson, the committee reviewing and revising the SOP on which several members of the Truck Committee also serve has not had time to complete that work. He anticipates the report will be completed in mid-October.  Fire Chief Gerry Franek noted that it took 384 man-hours in three months to complete the truck report, and because members of the committee also hold down outside jobs, this slowed the second study.

Public Safety Center Site Plan:  In order to meet the requirements in the Land Development Code, the design and location on the site of the police and fire station on the Cowles property will need to be altered.  Mike Clark showed the original concept and a revised one which respects the requirements and noted that he favors the new plan.  The council seemed committed to respecting the code requirements, and thus the new concept.  Upon reviewing various building styles, the consensus was for it to be well built, sturdy, attractive but not glorious, and should reflect the LDC principles.

Financial Update:  Finance Director Kathleen McBride reviewed the 2011 year end report of the major operating funds as well as first quarter operating funds report and first quarter investment results.   She presented a general schedule for future reports:  it has not been the practice previously for the council to receive quarterly reports. Details are available: http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/p/Packet243.pdf  #3.

Comment:   A May 21, 2012 memo to the Mayor and City Council was distributed at the meeting, separate from the council’s packet. In it Mr. Franek said the present site is in an “optimal location in the center of the city.” When the police department vacates the site, there would be room for fire department offices, training areas and dorm rooms. He recommended exploring redesign to create a 3 to 5 bay addition to the rear, which makes unnecessary reinforcement of the floor. The building would be usable for years to come. He concluded:

“Although it would be very nice to have new offices and training areas at (the new Cowles site), it doesn’t make sense to spend an extra 2 million dollars in this location when no one knows if we will be locating to this site. If our trucks and equipment are at the 5th Street location, our training and offices need to remain there also until a permanent agreed upon facility is chosen. We need to be responsible to the tax payers money.”

Mr. Franek later told me that Public Service Department Mark Taylor had asked him to prepare a response to the DLE structural reinforcement report and that was the purpose of the letter. The council made no reference to the memo during the discussion.

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