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Rural Fire Trustees plan for new wildland truck

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POLSON — The Polson Rural Fire District Trustees held their monthly meeting on April 14 at 7 p.m.

The trustees discussed 323, a truck housed at Irvine Flats. It will cost an estimated $2,000 to fix the truck.

Trustee Jack Clapp said there seem to be three choices with the truck: scrap it, repair it or explore something different. 

Chair Alison Meslin asked how the board would pay for a new vehicle. There is $7,000 in the operating fund and $6,000 in the truck fund, Meslin said.

Trustees asked PRFD Treasurer Bonnie Manicke if the rest of the money could be borrowed from Intercap.

Intercap is a Montana Board of Investments program which loans money to all government agencies in the state of Montana. 

Manicke said she thought the money could be borrowed from Intercap.

Clapp said if 2010 turned out to be a bad fire year and if the PRFD has a viable truck, the firefighters could go out and make a lot of money.

After trustee Fred Nelson asked how long it would take to get a new truck in service, firefighters Chris McGuinness and Craig Rubel estimated less than a week.

Discussion centered on what would happen if 323 had to be used before another vehicle could be purchased. Trustees were concerned about firefighter safety. 

So the trustees passed a motion to both repair 323 and authorize the committee to spend a maximum of $25,000 on a new vehicle. 

During discussion on the interlocal agreement between the PRFD and the city of Polson, Polson City Manager Todd Crossett said the letter from the PRFD had been referred to the city attorney. Crossett also said the Polson City Commissioners had voted to continue the agreement.

“I think it (the interlocal agreement) obviously was trying to develop a relationship between the rural and the city,” trustee Paul Laisy said. “I think that relationship is really important."

Laisy also said he was “wondering why we are paying $15,000 for our interlocal.”

Laisy said he asked Fire Chief John Fairchild if the $15,000 was used to pay for Fairchild’s wage. 

Laisy said, “Chief Fairchild said, ‘Absolutely not.’”

Part of the interlocal agreement, Crossett explained, was that the city hired the fire chief and he or she volunteered his/her services to the PRFD.  

Steve Stanley gave the board some background on the money. Stanley said when Fire Chief Gene Nobles retired he was a half-time fire chief. When Fire Chief Mike Tucker was hired, he wanted more hours so the PRFD paid $10,000 and ran it through the city so Tucker could get benefits and insurance. The increase to $15,000 came when Fire Chief Tom Maloney wanted more money.  

Since the trustees are working on the interlocal agreement, Laisy asked that the $15,000 payment be researched so the board would know exactly what the money was used for.

The trustees unanimously passed a motion to have trustee Jim Manley discuss the issue with the city of Polson. 

In other business, the trustees approved:

• The claims for March  

• A motion to leave the construction loan open 

• A motion to cap the construction loan at $175,000 and revisit the loan next month. 

• A motion to have Manicke research rolling the construction loan to an Intercap variable loan, which has a 10 year average of 3.6%   

In other business, Fairchild, Meslin and Laisy met with Paul Iverson, who built the new Fairgrounds Fire Station. The committee discussed with Iverson items that needed to be fixed on the building. Among the items to be fixed were the garage doors. 

Nelson got a bid from a local contractor, John Rody, to remove and re-install the doors, buy some heavy-duty iron, struts and parts and labor. The bill would run from $2,100 to $2,400 Nelson said.

A motion to hire Rody to fix the garage doors passed unanimously.

Meslin reported the PRFD received a $2,500 grant from Plum Creek. The money will be used for turnout gear for new recruits for the Fairgrounds Fire Station.

During public input on non-agenda items, firefighters discussed buying boots for wildland fires. 

Meslin said there was $5,000 in the wildland accounts so firefighters should not have to buy their own boots.

The next PRFD board meeting will be held on May 12 at 7 the Fairgrounds Fire Station. 

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