Manning-Mayberry station would lower insurance costs for nearby residents 

 

Scandia Fire & Rescue is looking to expand. 

Pitched by Scandia Fire Chief Mike Hinz, the Scandia City Council last week debated the idea of someday constructing a second fire station on city-owned land north of the intersection of Manning Trail and Mayberry Trail, the site of the former Big Lake School.

According to Hinz’s memo to the council, the proposed fire station would consist of a pole-barn style building to house two fire trucks, plus an additional brush/grass rig, a rescue truck and a rescue boat. There would be space for equipment cleaning and a radio/call room, but most of the department’s training and office functions would continue to occur at the existing station.

Initial costs for the building construction, pavement, and a well and septic system would be around $180,000, though that estimate does not include internal upfitting and equipment needs.

An additional fire station would be a financial benefit to residents in that part of the city, Hinz noted, especially those located within five miles of it. The prospect of lowered response times would improve the department’s ISO rating, a factor that directly affects property insurance rates. Residents of the Bliss neighborhood and some in May Township, in particular, would benefit.

Because part-time firefighters are required to report for fire calls within eight minutes, the additional fire station would also expand the potential recruitment area, an ongoing challenge for the department.

Offering contractual fire protection to parts of Forest Lake Township might also be a possibility, which could help offset some of the costs.

“(The city is) starting to grow again now, so I think this makes a lot of sense,” Mayor Christine Maefsky said.

Members of the council, though, were skeptical of the timing, cost for the project and the location.

“I don’t think now is the right time to spend this kind of money,” Councilwoman Patti Ray said. “I’m not opposed to the idea, I’m opposed to the timing of it. Well, I’m a little opposed to the idea, but not as much as I’m opposed to the timing.”

Councilman Chris Ness agreed, noting that the proposed local tax levy is already likely going up in 2021, even without adding the project.

Hinz suggested the costs of the new station could be spread over a longer term through a municipal construction bond. Hinz also noted that the second fire station was on the city’s Capital Improvements Plan several years ago, but was removed for reasons that are unclear.

The council directed Hinz and City Administrator Ken Cammilleri to have a survey of the Manning-Mayberry site completed and to look at other potentially larger sites for the station, one that may also be large enough to accommodate a future Public Works Department expansion.

Cammilleri said the proposed fire station would be included in the city’s financial management plan, which is currently being developed by a consultant.

Other business:

• Using CARES Act funding, the council accepted a quote from EMI Audio to purchase and install $75,284 worth of audio-visual equipment in the Scandia Community Center. The equipment, including two cameras, several wireless microphones and speakers, will enable the city to hold council meeting in the larger hall to accommodate social distancing space. The equipment will remain available for other events as well. 

• The council approved an annual step wage increase for Office Assistant/Parks and Recreation Coordinator Brenda Stignani, who will make $16.65 per hour. The council also agreed to expand the role from 19 to 32 hours per week beginning in December.

• The council appointed Judith Booren, Jacob Dochniak, Renee Lee, Emmy Lundeen, Chris Ness, Vicki Ryan, Denise Sanderson and Heidi Thayer to serve as election judges for the Nov. 3 election. The judges were added in anticipation of the heavy turnout and the need for additional assistance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• The council set Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. as its Election Board of Canvass meeting, which is being held later than usual to accommodate the additional seven days required by law to accept mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day.

• The council set a special budget meeting for Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.

 The next Scandia City Council meeting will be held Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.

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