By Ken Ross, Managing Editor
In order to subsidize the operation of the Cherokee Fire Department, the Cherokee City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance establishing fees for a response of the Cherokee Fire Department.
The first reading passed on a four to one vote, with Dwight Varce the only council member voting against the motion. The measure must be passed on two more readings before being put into effect. The council does have the option of waiving the third reading at a subsequent meeting.
The fee revenue is not specifically earmarked for the fire department but will go to the general fund from which fire department salaries are paid.
Establishing fees for fire department service was an item discussed during the budget process as one of several items to collectively serve as an alternative to a controversial proposal to eliminate paid positions on the fire department.
The fee is based on the equipment, material and personnel used in the response, with a maximum amount based on the type of response.
The maximum amounts would be:
Vehicle fire or accident - $500
Grass fire - $300
Structure fire (other than commercial) - $500
Commercial structure - $1,000
Industrial fire - $5,000
Controlled structure burn - $1,500
Hazardous material response - $100 per truck plus man hours and cost to replace equipment destroyed in a response.
The council approved a $60 fee for events at the Cherokee Arena that are not sponsored by the Cherokee Arena Committee.
Duane Heschke, president of the Cherokee Arena, explained that there are expenses of grounds maintenance and utilities incurred as the result of an event and that the $60 fee is reasonable compared to that of other such facilities.
There will be an additional fee for use of the arena's timer.
Individuals or groups not having competitive events are able to use the arena free of charge. Youth groups wanting to reserve a time at the arena must make arrangements in advance.
"It's a wonderful asset to the community," Dwight Varce, council member, said of the arena.
"The arena always looks nice. It is well taken care of," said Dennis Henrich, mayor.
The council members decided against a walking trail project at Spring Lake Park, although the long-planned project had finally been approved for a $78,000 federal grant.
The city doesn't have funds in the budget to pay the rest of the estimated $120,000 cost of the project.
"We have more important things that need to be done now," Ron Johnson, council member, said. He added that people can walk on the grass in Spring Lake Park.
"We get ourselves involved in these situations by not planning or setting aside money for a project," Varce said. He added that money set aside for a specific use should remain separated for that use. He noted that he did not support borrowing money from the George Bacon Estate to build a house, with the funds to be reimbursed from the proceeds of the sale. The house has been built using such borrowed funds and has not been sold yet.
The Bacon Estate funds are designated for use in projects that promote recreation in the community, such as the Aquatics Park project.
The council approved the use of Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital for pre-employment physicals, employee annual physicals and workers compensation examinations. Previously, there was no specific entity designated for such service.
The council was informed that the Cherokee Library received recognition by the State Library of Iowa for the Cherokee Library's innovative Stories 2000 Project.
The official newsletter of the State Library highlighted the Cherokee program which arranges volunteers to read to children at the WIC clinic, promoting literacy to the children and modeling reading to young parents.