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Detroit Lakes firefighters may cover Dunn Township

Dunn Township is asking the Detroit Lakes Fire Department to give residents the option of fire service.

Dunn Township Supervisor Mike Johnson asked the Detroit Lakes Public Safety Committee Monday to take their request for fire protection into consideration.

The Pelican Rapids Fire Department covers Dunn Township, but some residents are opposed to what the fire department is asking of them.

Johnson said Pelican Rapids is building a much-needed fire hall, but is asking Dunn Township residents to pay too large a share of the project.

The city of Pelican Rapids will pay 30 percent, Dunn Township 26 percent and the remaining 44 percent would be distributed between nine other townships and cities in that area, figuring out to about 5 percent each.

He said Dunn Township officials believe Pelican Rapids should pay at least 50 percent of the building because Pelican Rapids wants ownership of the hall.

Estimated cost of the new fire hall is $1.5 million.

Johnson said it's not about the service, because Pelican Rapids has an excellent fire department, but it's about the cost of putting up a new hall.

Dunn Township includes most of Pelican Lake and Lizzy Lake. It is located in Otter Tail County.

The township is about the same distance from Detroit Lakes as Pelican Rapids, give or take about two miles.

With the request for fire service, Detroit Lakes is now pondering two points -- whether to cover Dunn Township and what to charge for services for how long.

"$48,000 is a rough number we put together," Fire Chief Jeff Swanson said.

From that money, $10,000 would go to operating costs, $19,000 to the equipment fund, and $19,000 to the relief association.

Swanson suggested if the deal goes through, the fire department should enter into a one to three year service agreement with Dunn Township and then revisit the issue to see how it's going.

If Dunn Township was added into the formula other Detroit Lakes-covered townships and cities pay, it would lower the premiums for those by one-third.

Alderman G.L. Tucker said he felt the deal should either go forward or not. The contract should be for the same length of time as the other Detroit Lakes area townships, with Dunn added into the formula.

Other aldermen expressed concern that if fire crews were helping in Dunn Township, it might limit the coverage given to those already paying for Detroit Lakes Fire Department coverage.

Besides Dunn Township, Scambler Township is also looking for options. Swanson said Scambler is too far away for Detroit Lakes to cover.

Johnson stressed that Dunn Township just wants the option to use Detroit Lakes Fire Department services. Which fire department is used will actually be decided by a vote of the township board.

With that said, Johnson assured Detroit Lakes that the township is not just using Detroit Lakes as leverage against Pelican Rapids.

"It's not unheard of for townships to switch fire services," he said.

He said Dunn Township would be paying $46,000 a year to Pelican Rapids, so the township wouldn't be saving anything by coming to Detroit Lakes.

"I think Detroit Lakes can serve it (Dunn Township) just as well as Pelican Rapids," Johnson said.

It has also been stated that this could cause bad blood between Detroit Lakes and Pelican Rapids, and the switch could be political. Johnson said that's not the case.

"We'd kind of be in the middle of a hornets nest," Detroit Lakes Alderman Ron Zeman said.

According to the fire call list Swanson has received, Dunn Township had nine fire calls last year, most of which were grass fires. Detroit Lakes Fire Department takes 250-300 calls a year.

He said that if the council approves the service to Dunn Township, Detroit Lakes firefighters would be in full support of the deal.

The committee decided more information was needed and the issue would be on April's agenda.