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04/28/2017

THE UNITED TOWNSHIP CO-OP FIRE ASSOCIATION
Martin County Minnesota Associated Townships

April 24, 2017

TO: Fairmont City Council
Fairmont Negotiating Team
Let us be clear in our support for the firefighters that man the equipment owned by the United Township COOP Fire Association (COOP). They are well trained and dedicated to the work they do in providing fire protection to the eight townships. We give our financial support and full backing to this group of dedicated individuals. Our name is on the side of six of the nine trucks. We funded the last two trucks purchased. We have purchased a trailer to haul rescue equipment. We have given generously when asked to help with purchasing the water rescue equipment, the Jaws of Life, personal safety equipment, and other equipment needed for their safety. We have supported the firefighters in countless other ways. We have had a great relationship with the firefighters since the COOP started over 50 years ago. Both departments were housed together and shared manpower. Over the years this cooperation has become closer, with trucks and equipment becoming co-owned.
Our issue is with the negotiating team from the City of Fairmont who refuse to recognize all the ways the COOP has supported the firefighters in the past and, instead, chooses to focus on one small area, that being the “operating budget” of the “Fairmont Fire Department” (they refuse to recognize the COOP as part of the fire department). All variations of their proposal have contained the same dollar demand, only with variations on what numbers are used to get there, or on how they think we should be raising these funds from our constituents. When we presented a different starting point, they refused to acknowledge even receiving it.
The COOP is unable to accept the proposal made by the City of Fairmont for numerous reasons. These include the following:
Response to City of Fairmont contract proposal
The United Township COOP Fire Assoc is unable to accept the proposal for numerous reasons. Some of
The reasons are as follows;
NUMBER OF FIRE CALLS
In reviewing the ten-year average page from the 2016 Fire Department Report the City listed an
average of 81 calls per year yet when you add up the column it totals 911 calls or a 91 per year
average.
They listed the Townships with 22 calls per year. And yet when you add the column it totals 200
for an average 20 not 22. Beyond that when we reviewed our records we were only billed for
141 total calls or 14 per year average. That would be 911+141=1,052 141 div. 1,052= 13%
quite a difference from the 23% demanded by Mr. Humpal. Part of the discrepancy may be in
calls to accidents. If the city insists on including fire coverage to all accident calls on roads then
we should be at the table deciding if the fire department responds to all these calls or just when
asked for.
COVERED STRUCTURES
Another possible area in which percentage calculations may be considered is in building value –
an analysis of building values throughout the fire district reveals the breakdown is 80% city vs
20% township.
If we look at the number of parcels with structures on the parcel the townships have 1037 and the
city has 4557 – 19% vs 81%. The COOP strongly feels it is inappropriate for the bare land
parcels to be included in calculation of appropriate fire coverage. Even the city acknowledges
that bare ag land does not require the same services as improved parcels hence the cities Rural
Service District tax rate which is less than 40% of the tax rate on improved parcels.
Once again, the township averages are considerably below the 23% demanded by My Humpal in
His proposal.
BUDGETED INCOME AND EXPENSE
We have received very few actual numbers regarding budgeting and expense. One we were
provided listed the fire hall building in the budget as being worth $2,169,000 (current estimated
value for tax purposes is $168,400). This number is unrealistic and inflated. The brand new
modern ambulance building just built by Gold Cross (Mayo) to house their ambulances, and
which would be very similar to the building which currently houses the Fire Dept, is only valued
at $843,000.
Another area creating much expense for the department is wages. One issue is the number of
training and drilling hours. In our conferring with other fire departments it appears Fairmont Fire
Department drills and trains far more than other fire departments. If this is a major portion of our
expenses we feel a discussion of these policies is in order.
Also, policies regarding number of firefighters who are paid for responding to a fire call. In
recent years that policy changed from past practices and once again it affects our expenses and
we were never notified or consulted on the change of policy.
We have attempted several times to analyze the budget but the numbers we have received in the
past changed significantly from one presentation to the next and so line item spreadsheets of
audited budgets should be shared so an educated negotiation can take place. Expecting the COOP
to simply take total numbers at face value is not reasonable.
The question should be what math should we be using? We strongly believe Mr. Humpal’s
demands of 23% of approximately $375,000 is far from accurate or equitable.
Furthermore, we have been told multiple times by both the Fire Fighter representatives and Mr
Humpal that the COOP had never made any proposal to be considered and yet during the work
session Mr Humpal listed off every point of the COOP’s written proposal. One of the biggest
frustrations is we had been attempting to have private negotiations with the group representing
the city and we have made exactly one rough draft, beginning point, proposal and now that has
been made public in a public meeting without them city ever officially responding to our
proposal. We met approximately 10 times trying to work through the city proposal with no
progress made and so the COOP attempted to start an alternate line of discussion to see if
progress could be made that way. That was the last meeting held in July of 2016, we never
received any kind of response and so we have not met since then.
In order to continue with negotiations, we need detailed facts and figures addressing the areas of
concern expressed above. Please provide the information at your earliest convenience.
1. All parties involved need to be part of the budgeting process. No one should be expected to pay a percentage of a budget they have no say in creating. We have a number of issues with their proposed budget and how they arrived at the percentages we have been presented.
2. In reviewing the ten-year average page from the 2016 Fire Department Report (prepared by city staff) the City is listed with an average of 81 calls per year, yet when you add up the column it totals 911 calls or a 91 per year average. The Townships are listed with 22 calls per year average, yet when you add up the column it totals 200 calls for an average of 20, not 22. Beyond that, when we reviewed our records we were only billed for 141 total calls, or 14 per year average. That would be 911+141=1,052, take 141/1,052=13%, quite a difference from the 23% demanded by the city. Part of the discrepancy may be in calls to accidents outside the city limits. If the city insists on including fire coverage to all accident calls on roads, then we should be at the table deciding if the fire department responds to all these calls, or just when they are asked by the officers first on the scene, and how these calls are billed.


3. Another area in which percentage calculations may be considered is in tax parcels. If we look at the number of parcels with structures on the parcel, the townships have 1037 and the city has 4557 – 19% vs, 81%. The COOP strongly feels it is inappropriate for the bare land parcels to be included in the calculation of appropriate fire coverage. The city even acknowledges that bare agriculture land does not require the same services as improved parcels, hence their Rural Service District tax rate, which is less than 40% of the tax rate on improved parcels. The township averages are considerably below the 23% demanded by the city in its proposal. We also recognize that due to the distance involved, many rural response times will be too late to prevent severe damage to the burning structure, but instead will focus on saving the surrounding structures.
4. We have received very few actual numbers regarding income and expense. One budget we were provided listed the fire hall building as being worth $2,169,000 (current estimated value for tax purposes is $168,400). The new ambulance building just built by Gold Cross (Mayo) to house their ambulances, which is very similar to the building currently housing the Fire Department, is valued at $843,000. Should depreciation and repairs even be included in the budget since the COOP owns its own equipment and pays for the major expenses on those vehicles?
5. Policy regarding the number of firefighters who are paid for responding to a fire call. In recent years that policy changed from past practices, it affects our expenses, what is the policy? We would like to be included on this type of decision making.
6. We have attempted several times to analyze the budget, but the numbers changed significantly from one presentation to the next, even though the demanded dollar amount never changed. Line item spreadsheets of audited numbers should be shared so an educated negotiation can take place. Expecting the COOP to take total numbers at face value is not reasonable.
We believe the demand of 23% of the budget of approximately $375,000 is far from accurate or equitable.
We have been told multiple times by both the Fire Fighter representatives and by City Administrator Humpal that the COOP has never made a proposal to be considered. We made a proposal, but there has been no response by the city.
If the city negotiating team is ready to openly address the issues and provide the information requested by the COOP, we are ready to sit down and continue with negotiations and try to come to an agreement satisfactory to all parties.

Randy Musser – Chairman – Silver Lake Township
John Garbers – Vice Chair – Fraser Township
Dan Whitman - Treasurer – East Chain Township
Brian Wannarka – Rolling Green Township
Dan Bebernes – Rolling Green Township
Lawrence Sukalski – Silver Lake Township



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