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Fire protection district question in the offing for PC voters

Monday, July 23, 2012

Citizens of Pierce City will have the opportunity to decide on the issue of forming a tax-based fire protection district.

During the regular July meeting of the Pierce City Board of Aldermen, Brian Jones, of the Pierce City Rural Fire District, said the organization was going to try to form a tax-based fire protection district that would incorporate the Pierce City Volunteer Fire Department's assets and volunteers as well as its own to form a more cohesive and efficient fire protection service.

"We would have better response times and better coverage," Jones said. "People from both departments respond to about every call anyway, whether it's in the city or not. It would still be a volunteer fire department, but the area covered would go way up."

If approved, the city would drop its tax for the city department and those within the Pierce City R-6 district would have an estimated 30-cents per $100 assessed valuation of property tax added to fund the combined department.

"We will also have to see about putting it on the Newton and Barry County ballot," Jones said, "for the R-6 patrons in those counties."

It currently takes about $1,800 to outfit a firefighter with bunker gear, helmet and boots. Some of the equipment at both fire departments is pushing the 15-year mark, when it is typically warranted only for 10.

"That's the new gear," said Pierce City Fire Chief Andy Hogenmiller. "We have stuff that's older."

The income generated from the tax-based district would consolidate the assets of both departments and go toward replacing outdated or damaged firefighting equipment and personal protective equipment for firefighters.

"I think it would be in the best interest of the city to get in on this effort," said Mayor Allen Stockton. "The city department works on a slim budget and needs new safety equipment."

He recommended that the departments work together in inventorying equipment, buildings and other assets and determining the ballot language.

In other business, aldermen approved renaming a short portion of Jay Street, between the curves of Timothy Street and Gantt, off of S. Walnut Street, to Timothy Street.

"That whole 'z-jog' there will eventually be named Timothy Street," said Julie Johnson, city clerk. "It will be less confusing for emergency responders."

In other business, Stockton named Kenny Smith, Dana Stanphill and Brandon Raley to a committee to determine what types of animals will be restricted inside the city limits. Aldermen are hoping to deter owners from harboring large animals such as horses and other farm livestock inside the city limits.

"This will provide some consistency in the code book," Stockton said.

Aldermen also approved an ordinance approving water and sewer rate changes for Pierce City residents. The ordinance mandates a $13 service charge, which includes the first 1,000 gallons used. Each additional 1,000 gallons will be charged at a rate of $3.

Sewer rates are set at $16, which includes the first 1,000 gallons used, with a minimum charge of $3.49 for each additional 1,000 gallons.

Customers outside the city limits will be charged $25 per service, which includes the first 1,000 gallons used. Customers will pay an additional $3.50 per 1,000 gallons thereafter.

Jeff Riekhof, of Clearwater Environmental, LLC in Springfield, provided a written report for the council to review.

There are two bearings out on the southeast rotor at the wastewater treatment plant, which negatively impacts the operations of the plant. Replacement bearings have been ordered and will be installed as soon as possible.

Riekhof also found a broken shaft on one rotor, which is being repaired as well.

The Pine Street lift station is still inoperable due to the insurance company fighting a claim on damages. Riekhof cautioned aldermen should proceed with ordering pumps and controls, and could take up to six weeks to arrive.

Riekhof said the water system is working well, but a pressure alarm and autodialer for well #4 are still needed to prevent a low-pressure situation in the future. Estimated cost of the equipment is $1,000.

Riekhof and Wayne Sooter are working on a plan to run the water system with one well out of operation. The cleaning and inspection of the wells is expected to take a week per tower, and Riekhof said he anticipates having to put well #5 online. That well required manual operations to turn off and on.

Aldermen have planned a public meeting to discuss the 2012 bond issue. The town hall meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 30 at City Hall. Discussion will center around the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) mandated disinfection of wastewater effluent and the possible consequences of non-compliance.

In final business, aldermen approved a floodplain management ordinance so the city can participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. The ordinance prohibits development of areas within the flood hazard area.

Aldermen Melissa Creed and Stanphill reminded council members of the upcoming Pride of Pierce City Happy Harvest Days, scheduled for Oct. 6. A variety of activities are planned. A Harvest King and Queen will be named. Booth rentals are also available at a cost of $25.

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