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Dunn Township won't receive primary fire protection from DL

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The Detroit Lakes Fire Department will not be providing Dunn Township with primary fire coverage.

Last month, Dunn Township Supervisor Mike Johnson came before the Detroit Lakes Public Safety Committee to ask that the Detroit Lakes Fire Department consider covering the Otter Tail County township.

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This month, several residents voiced their opinion against that request. Some wrote letters, and some attended the Public Safety Committee meeting Monday afternoon.

"My concern is for the safety and response time for the vast majority of Dunn Township volunteers," wrote resident Steve Bergquist.

"Minutes count in an emergency. The response time will definitely be longer," Kris Dillon wrote, stating it's eight miles from Pelican Rapids to the family's cabin and 15.5 to Detroit Lakes.

Resident Timothy Such cited similar mileage issues, writing that the change in coverage gives him "grave concerns."

Residents listed response time as one of the No. 1 reasons to stay with Pelican Rapids. The issue of ownership and taxes were also reasons.

When Johnson spoke last month, he said some of the Dunn Township residents wanted the option of going with the Detroit Lakes Fire Department because Pelican Rapids was building a new fire hall and asking Dunn Township residents to pay a large portion of the building without letting Dunn Township have some ownership in it.

In response to the issue of ownership of the fire hall, both Bergquist and Dillon downplayed the fact that Dunn Township may not have ownership in Pelican Rapids' new hall.

"The city of Pelican Rapids has been more than fair in dealing with Dunn Township," Dillon wrote. "We are very confused on what this is actually all about."

Dillon added the cost of a new fire hall to Dunn Township residents would be $4.56 a year, "certainly not a hardship for most people in Dunn Township."

While that increase isn't large, Such wrote that his homeowner's insurance would be a large increase.

"My insurance premium would increase $300 per year. This would be a lifelong financial obligation that I would have no choice about assuming if the fire department service would change."

A letter from Derek and Carol Schmaltz said about 90 percent of Dunn Township is closer to Pelican Rapids than Detroit Lakes.

"Common sense tells us all the Pelican Rapids Fire Department could better serve Dunn Township for the good of all involved," Bergquist said.

When a handful of residents came to the public safety meeting, they said they felt there are two sides to the story and wanted equal representation. They said they also felt they weren't getting the entire story from Johnson.

They stated that most of the township residents were fine with the cost of the new fire hall, and ownership wasn't a big deal because they wouldn't have ownership in Detroit Lakes fire hall, either.

One more fact was Detroit Lakes Fire Department doesn't have the E911 addresses for Otter Tail County, which could increase response time as well.

Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Jeff Swanson said he wanted to clear up any misinformation and put the opposing Dunn Township people at ease, stating that the township approached him about nine months ago and he refused to talk until given the OK by City Administrator Rich Grabow.

He added that Dunn Township has approached him several times over the last 10 years about fire coverage, and he has always denied it, saying Pelican Rapids was providing service.

This time he agreed to talk with the township, with Grabow and the city's blessing, simply because he was under the impression that the township was concerned that the cost of their fire coverage may double with the building of a new fire hall.

"We were just trying to be nice guys," he said.

He said he didn't know until last month when Johnson spoke at the Public Safety Committee that Pelican Rapids was going to charge the residents basically the same amount Detroit Lakes would, around $48,000.

Once he heard the amounts were the same, Swanson said he was not in favor of even offering the fire coverage.

"We're stepping out of negotiations because Pelican Rapids is giving you a fair price and fair coverage," he said.

Mayor Larry Buboltz agreed, saying the city and fire department was "unwilling to provide that service."

Swanson said it was a win-win situation as far as he was concerned. Detroit Lakes will still have mutual aid with Pelican Rapids.

"Please understand and consider the turmoil and hard feelings this has created for the volunteers of the Pelican Rapids Fire Department, people of Pelican Rapids, Dunn Township and surrounding area," Dillon wrote.

Understood. Considered. Agreed.

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