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Polson Rural Fire District welcomes new trustees

POLSON — Newly sworn in trustees Beth Hoel and Steve Stanley jumped right into action at the Polson Rural Fire District meeting on May 12 at 7 p.m. at the Fairgrounds Fire Station. 

The slate of officers elected were Fred Nelson, chair, Jack Clapp, vice chair, and Beth Hoel, secretary/treasurer. 

Stanley asked that the name of the staff report be changed to the chief’s report.

During the chief’s report, Fire Chief John Fairchild reported there were 14 runs for April, which is low.

Vehicle 323 passed the Montana Department of Transportation inspection and is in Kalispell getting a new radio installed. The old radio from 323 will be available if a radio goes down in another engine.

Fairchild will be out of town at the end of the week attending a wildland arson training and then to his daughter’s wedding. Assistant Chief Bishop will be in charge while Fairchild is gone.

The trustees passed:

 • A resolution that the primary reason for the creation and existence of fire companies in the Polson Rural Fire District is for retirement purposes only.

• A resolution that decisions regarding operational matters shall be the sole responsibility of the fire chief, or those persons he/she designates, and said decisions shall be made in conformity with board policy and procedures.

• A motion not to pursue an outside consultant.

• A motion to allow the interlocal agreement to remain in place.

• A motion to keep the construction loan open for another month.

• A motion to put the operational side of the PRFD into the chief’s hands; the policy side would be the board’s.

• A motion to adopt one application for volunteers. The chief will bring any new members' names to the PRFD meeting in the chief’s report. 

“I personally think a member of the fire department should be selected by the fire department because they’re the ones who have to work with him or her,” Stanley said.  

Clapp reported on the Stakeholders Group. The group has been meeting once an month and “has aired out a lot of dirty laundry.” Clapp said he hoped the group moved to resolution this month. Clapp asked Hoel and Stanley to attend if they wanted.  

In other business, Lake County Commissioner Bill Barron mentioned a fence the PRFD had said they would put up around the Fairgrounds Fire Station.

Nelson said the PRFD had voted to put up a chain link fence and pay for the fence out of the capital reserve fund. 

Fairchild said he looked at former Trustee Alison Meslin’s notes on the Workers Comp Annual Report and didn’t know where she got her figures.

Stanley asked Fairchild to see if Pete Bishop could look at the numbers and “educate us in simple terms” at the next meeting.

Nelson asked Fairchild to notify him if a truck was damaged at a fire call and if someone was injured or killed at a fire.

At the June meeting, Clapp said the board should start some long-term planning, maybe with a five-year committee and include district resident Sid Rundell on the committee. 

The trustees asked Barron to give an overview of funds available due to protested taxes. Barron said the commissioners are thinking Lake County will do as well as last year but it may take two or three years to get budgets back on track.

The trustees asked Bonnie Manicke, PRFD treasurer, when she would like to start on the budget. 

Manicke said she’d like the PRFD to start working on it in June and pass the budget in July. 

During public comment, Barron said in regards to the PRFD meeting being legal, he’d called the Lake County Attorney. The county attorney felt it was a legal meeting and that the law doesn’t require an agenda be posted or printed, just a notice of meeting. 

The trustees, Barron and audience members discussed whether to call the firefighters the Polson Fire Department or the Polson Volunteer Fire Department.

Fairchild said originally the city agreed to house the engines, the rural agreed to buy some vehicles and the firefighters fought the fires so there were three entities.

Firefighter membership president Terry Gembala said the firefighters were a third organization with the city and the rural.

“When the (fire) bell goes off, they (the firefighters) don’t care about the name,” Gembala added.

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