At the recommendation of City Administrator Don Eikmeier and with the blessing of the City Council, the City and Cherokee Fire & Rescue Department (CFRD) are in the process of establishing a vehicle replacement schedule for the department so the City can better plan financing in advance of any necessary vehicle replacement.
The Council and CFRD met at the fire station last week to review space limitations and the current fleet of fire-fighting vehicles.
The current CFRD fleet includes of a 2009 International Tanker Truck, a 2009 International Rescue Truck, a 2001 International Pumper, a 1991 Chevrolet Pumper, a 1977 Ford Pumper, a 1977 Pierce Pumper, a 1976 Henderson Aerial, and a 1967 American La France.
According to the CFRD, the total pumping capabilities of the vehicles are 5,500 gallons per minute, with the department needing to maintain at least 4,000 GPM to keep its ISO (Insurance Service Organization) rating of 4, which translates into lower insurance premiums (the lower the number, the better the ISO rating).
CFRD Treasurer Roger Frisbie informed the Council that as they age, repairs on the older vehicles are expensive, with some of the parts needed not produced any more, leading the department to require custom-made parts that can become very expensive.
The Council took no action but will begin the process of establishing a vehicle replacement program time frame to help lead the department into the future.
There is a national trend of smaller rural communities steadily losing manpower due to declining populations, smaller families, fewer local businesses, retirements, and a commuting work force traveling into the larger cities. This limits the number of volunteers and the response time when the alarm sounds and is a fact of life that will lead to more regionalization of fire departments as the years go by.
The CFRD also is assessing possible building expansion due to tightening storage quarters for the vehicles that have become larger and longer.
"We're chuck full," said Frisbie of the current fire station constructed in 1979. "We've plain run out of room."
Frisbie said fire officials have obtained a rough estimate for a 65X70 foot addition to the west side of the existing fire station and it totaled "about $475,000." Cherokee County would contribute one-fourth of that cost, said Frisbie.
Eikmeier told the fire fighters that the City must expand its economy and tax base before considering funding such things. Eikmeier said the CFRD information will be included in the City's proposed new Comprehensive Plan that is in the process of getting under way. Once completed, the new Comprehensive Plan would allow the City to become more accessible to future grant monies.
In other business, the Council voted 4-1 to proceed with the clean-up regarding a Notice to Abate a nuisance at the property of Margo Boon and Jean Lyman at 233 E. Willow St.
The City has been working with the property owners since last spring to abate a nuisance on their property. Despite having worked with the owners all summer, minimal progress has been made in the mandatory clean-up. An official abatement notice was issued August 30 and on Sept, 10, the owners requested a hearing on the matter. The hearing was held last week at the Council meeting in the fire station.
Boon and Lyman told the Council that they have been making inroads into the clean-up but that several issues were at play which continued to delay the clean-up process. They listed the poor weather all spring and summer, their respective low incomes and health and disability issues that limit sufficient progress, and the fact that Lyman has the "hoarding syndrome" that worsens the amount of "nuisance items" cited by the City. Their basement also received flood damage during the heavy rains Cherokee received this past spring and summer, and the women say they couldn't move stuff from the yard into the wet basement.
In an effort to resolve the ongoing matter and to reach some form of a compromise, Eikmeier recommended the City proceed with the clean-up with City crews and that he and City Clerk Deb Taylor will work out a payment schedule for the women to reimburse the City.
The Council voted 4-1 to proceed with the clean-up and charging the costs back to the property owners (Boon and Lyman), with Council Members Mick Mallory, Linda Burkhart, Jim Peck, and Wayne Pingel voting yes, and Dan Morrow voting no.