Fire report highlights council meetingAlexandria firefighters responded to 212 calls last year – the most in at least a decade. That was just one of the statistics that came from the department’s annual report presented by Fire Chief Shane Schmidt at Monday night’s Alexandria City Council meeting.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria firefighters responded to 212 calls last year – the most in at least a decade.
That was just one of the statistics that came from the department’s annual report presented by Fire Chief Shane Schmidt at Monday night’s Alexandria City Council meeting.
The vast majority of the calls, 145 of them, happened within the city. LaGrand Township had 19 calls and Alexandria Township reported 17.
This marked the third straight year the department has responded to more than 200 calls. There were 204 calls in 2008 and 206 in 2007. In 2006, there were 177 calls.
Fire caused an estimated $219,000 worth of damage last year, the report said.
But it could have been worse.
Firefighters saved about $295,000 from going up in smoke, according to the chief’s report.
Structure fires accounted for $150,000 of the total losses and firefighters saved $240,000 worth of buildings that caught fire.
Vehicle fires caused $58,500 worth of damage but another $41,500 would have been lost if not for the efforts of the firefighters.
An average of 26 volunteer firefighters responded to each incident last year.
Their response time was speedy, according to the report. They were at the scene in six minutes or less for about 80 percent of the fire calls.
Based on the size of the city and the seven townships the fire department has mutual aid agreements with, the department is responsible for serving a population of 21,350 and covering an area of about 135 square miles.
Firefighters did much more last year than respond to calls.
They attended three-hour drills every Monday night, totaling 156 hours of training. They also completed 12 hours of training one weekend per year at a state-certified course.
Schmidt noted that the firefighters also spent a lot of time on fire prevention efforts during its annual open house, which he said has become a great success.
“In 2010, we will continue what we have started by keeping our firefighters safe,” Schmidt noted in his report. “We will continue on our path – all firefighters come home.”
With the exception of three members, all of the firefighters are firefighter-II certified. Two new recruits are going through training to replace retiring firefighters said Schmidt, who has completed 22 years with the department.
Schmidt is stepping down as chief after serving the maximum three terms but will remain with the department.
“I just want to let you know that it has been an honor and a privilege to represent the city and the firefighters of Alexandria,” Schmidt told the council. “I don’t know how I could top this.”
The new fire chief is Jeff Karrow. Bill Thoennes is first assistant chief and Chris Janke is second assistant.
The council approved the report, confirmed Karrow as chief and complimented Schmidt on his service.
“Thank you for six years of wonderful leadership,” said Mayor Dan Ness, a former fire chief himself. “The department continues to improve…We have an outstanding fire department and we’re very appreciative of our volunteer firefighters.”
Fire Marshal Dennis Stark, who is in his 15th year at the position, also presented an annual report of his duties, which the council also approved.
Fire prevention in October was especially busy, Stark said, with school fire drills, poster contests and classroom visits.
Nineteen different schools, about 750 students, visited the fire station last year and 37 tours were given.
A Safety Day Camp in May drew about 270 5th grade students. In all, about 1,560 students participated in fire safety education. Stark also conducted annual safety presentations at senior housing facilities and met other special requests.
Stark completed about 140 fire safety inspections, mostly at new constructions. He also reviewed 40 plans and entered 200 fire calls into the state’s database.
About 256 buildings in the city now have automatic fire sprinkler systems, Stark said.
Stark assisted or followed up on 30 fire investigation incidents, taking photographs or determining a cause, if possible.
Stark also served as emergency management director for the city and deputy director for the county. He was involved with preparedness planning, Homeland Security grants and conducting exercises using available resources.
The fire marshal was also involved in continuing education by attending conferences and committee meetings about arson investigations, sprinkler inspections and fire prevention.
The council had just enough members, three, for a quorum Monday night as both Sara Carlson and Owen Miller were unable to attend. In other developments, the council:
--Authorized Runestone Community Center (RCC) Manager Vinnie Hennen to call for bids for new hockey boards at the RCC. The old boards will then be installed at the west rink.
The estimated cost is between $110,000 and $120,000 and will come out of the RCC equipment fund and capital improvement fund. The new boards are expected to last at least 15 years.
--Approved a conditional use permit that will allow Zion Lutheran Church to expand the north end of its building at 300 Lake Street.
The 60-foot-by-150-foot expansion won’t increase the seating in the facility but will rearrange the church to provide better flow and an informal gathering place.
The congregation is expected to vote on the plan in February. If approved, construction could begin this spring.
A separate building permit is required. Any exterior lighting must be hooded and directed away from the public street.
--Scheduled a work session with the city’s police station task force.
It will take place on Monday, February 8 at 6 p.m. at city hall.
The task force and council members will review updated building and site layout plans for a new stand-alone police department.
--Proclaimed February 21-27 as Random Acts of Kindness Week, as requested by the Alexandria Kiwanis Club.
This is the 14th straight year the event will encourage and recognize small acts of kindness that occur in the community every day.
The event is specially planned not to be a fundraiser so that any local service groups, churches or other organizations can participate as they see fit, according to the Kiwanis Club.
Public and private elementary schools in the District 206 area will be invited to participate through a drawing contest that will depict the acts of kindness.
“It is our belief that these small, often anonymous acts of kindness can make a difference in our lives and in the life of our community,” wrote Tim Schoonhoven, committee chair of Random Acts of Kindness Week, in a letter to the mayor.
More than 600 cities across the country are observing a Random Acts of Kindness Week.
--Authorized Public Works Coordinator Bryan Bjorgaard to purchase a used forklift for $15,604, including taxes, new tires and an extra propane tank.
The cost will be split between the park and street departments.
--Was informed by City Administrator Jim Taddei that the city will receive a $3,000 state grant to put in automatic doors at Bethesda Lutheran Church to help handicapped voters on Election Day.
--Approved a subdivision application from Bruce Pohlig to split his property to create two conveyable parcels – one totaling 10.56 acres and the other 32.33 acres.
The property is located both east and west of Iowa Street in the Airport Industrial Park.
The city’s park dedication requirements were waived because it was a subdivision for conveyance and the land is zoned and planned for industrial use.
--Approved a subdivision application for “Le Homme Dieu Ridge,” also owned by Bruce Pohlig.
The property is located along the west and north sides of South Le Homme Dieu Drive.
Right now, there are three lake lots on the property. The subdivision adds four more.
The approval came with a few conditions: payment of a park dedication fee of $1,000; a required connection to public utilities; and evidence of title must be submitted to the city attorney’s office.
--Issued a conditional use permit to Paul Klimek, doing business as Hilltop Lumber at 1405 North Nokomis Street.
This will allow the business to display equipment, such as pallet racks and forklifts for sale or rental, in an outside parking lot.
A few conditions were required: The storage of equipment will begin so it’s even with the west building line and extends back 120 feet with a maximum depth of 20 feet; no storage is allowed on grassy areas; all the equipment must be stored in a compacted state; and any exterior lighting must be hooded and directed away from public streets.
--Approved a zoning district amendment requested by the city to change the zoning of property at 44 Glenn Road from single-family residential to general business. This was primarily a housekeeping item, said City Planner Mike Weber.
Until recently, the site was in Alexandria Township, governed by county zoning ordinances, and had been used as the office and warehouse facility for Alexandria Plumbing and Heating. The buildings are now vacant.
Rezoning the property will allow it to be reoccupied for commercial use, said Weber.
The future land use map in the city’s comprehensive plan identifies the property as commercial.
--Designated the following streets as Municipal State Aid Highways – 50th Avenue, from Highway 29 to County Road 106; Hawthorne Street, from 5th Avenue to 15th Avenue; 7th Avenue, from Fillmore Street to Broadway.
This will allow the city to maximize its annual allotment of aid from the state, said City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven.
--Approved the following licenses: peddlers – B-Pop Kettle Korn; tattoo – RM Tattoo and Piercing; excavating – Waldorf Excavating; temporary liquor – Eagles Club for a February 14 event; charitable gambling – American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education (ABATE) of Minnesota to sell raffles for an April 17 event at the Holiday Inn, Let’s Go Fishing With Seniors to sell raffles for an April 22 event at the Elk’s Lodge, and Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf to conduct bingo on February 11.