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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo OKs Funds To Meet Firefighting Recommendations

Issue Date: May 20, 2021

After some in-depth discussion on Monday, May 17, Peshtigo City Council's Finance Committee agreed to recommend that the city use up to $23,000 of this year's Capital Improvement Projects loan to fulfill ISO Audit recommendations for the city's fire department. Fire Chief Chuck Gardon explained that a good ISO rating benefits all city property owners by keeping fire insurance costs down.

Using a portion of the capital improvement loan proceeds for the fire department expenditures will reduce the funds available for park improvement projects this year, but will still leave $117,500 for the Parks and Recreation Committee to allocate over the next few months as recommended by Parks and Recreation Director Lori Tonn.

â€I can guarantee you, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for this ISO Audit,†Gardon declared. He had previously explained that a company called the ISO (Insurance Services Office) creates ratings for fire departments and their surrounding communities. The ratings calculate how well-equipped and trained fire departments are to service their community. The ISO provides this score, often called the "ISO fire number," to fire insurance companies. This score affects how much property owners in the municipality, residential, industrial and commercial, will pay for their fire insurance coverage for the next several years. Forty percent of the number is Municipal Water Supply, 50 percent is Fire Department Equipment and Personnel, and 10 percent is Fire Department's interaction with the community.

On a rank of 1 to 10, with â€1†being the best, Peshtigo currently has a rating of 4, which Gardon hopes can be brought down to a 3. The City of Marinette currently has a 3 rating, and Town of Peshtigo has a 6. Only three cities in the entire state have ratings of 1.

The ISO audits are done only every five to six years, Gardon said. This is the first one done since he became Fire Chief in 2019.

Gardon said on Monday, April 26, two men came from the Milwaukee area to do the audit for Peshtigo. He and city engineer George Cowell and Assistant Fire Chief Chris Rohde met with them for about two and a half hours. The auditors were nice enough to consider the trucks and equipment, that the department has already purchased for this year but has not yet been delivered, Gardon said.

The in-depth ISO review looks at fire department equipment, supplies, facilities, hydrants, distance from fire stations, trainings, community support, water supply, fire calls over the past 12 months, age of protective gear, emergency power for the fire department buildings, etc., Gardon said.

Gardon recommended adding equipment that will cost a total of $16,849. This includes five portable radios with microphones, two chargers for portable radios, a new thermal imaging camera, five new new 1.5-inch and one 2.5-inch combination Saberjet brass nozzles with pistol grip, four special flashlights and one Super Vac Electric Positive Pressure Fan.

The generator at the main fire station in the Municipal Building downtown is sufficient, but the department needs a larger generator for Station 2 on the east side of the river. One big enough to handle the whole building and run the heating needed to make it suitable for use as an emergency shelter site.

At the start of the meeting Gardon had noted the Fire Department had received a $792.32 grant from the DNR to be used for tools like extra shovels, saws, etc. for fighting wildland fires, and another grant of over $1,800 from M&M Community Foundation, for a four gas monitor.

Alderman Brigitte Schmidt asked if there were any additional grants to apply for. Gardon replied they are applying for others, and added that additional money for the Fire Department will be earned at fund raisers, like the steak fry to be held at Lee's Family Foods on Friday, June 18. He said the Fire Department also will take that opportunity to show off its new equipment.

Alderman Kurt Klimek asked if there is any guarantee that following through on the recommendations will improve the city's ISO ratings. Gardon said there is not, but added, â€...I'm pretty sure if we don't follow through on those recommendations our rating could go up.â€

Schmidt declared the city is very supportive of the Fire Department, and felt communicating that should also help the ISO rating.

â€Help us help you,†Gardon agreed, adding that the lower the ISO rating number is, the more it cuts the cost of insurance for everyone.

Alderman Rick Berth asked what the department will do with the old trucks once the new ones are delivered. Gardon said they will probably be sold in the next few months.

Schmidt felt they should move forward with fulfilling the recommendations and with purchase of the generator, but also hated to touch the Parks money because it had been several years since major projects were done there.

Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal said there is money left from the $1.19 million capital outlay loan, and they could transfer money from the fund raiser account.

Mayor Cathi Malke suggested giving $22,286 to the Fire Department, and then adding the $12,000 carry-over from the 2020 budget plus the remaining proceeds of the loan to the Parks allocation.

Sievert noted that would allow Tonn to do what she wants with the total of $117,500.

Tonn said she is waiting for a bid for tiling the restroom at Badger Park, â€...and it's not going to be cheap... perhaps $10,000 to $15,000.†She said inspections last year showed all kinds of electrical needs, plus they need about $9,000 to blacktop at the ball fields and parking lot, and it has been strongly suggested that they start planting new trees at Badger Park to replace ones that will almost surely die when emerald ash borer strikes. Schmidt said they also need improvements at the Badger Park playground.

Finally Schmidt moved to recommend that council approve expenditure of up to $23,000 for the fire department to be funded from the debt levy (capital improvement loan), and that motion was approved.

Next came a approval of a motion recommending that Council transfer $94,500 from the debt levy account to the Parks Capital Improvements account, with projects to be approved by the Parks and Recreation Committee and Director Tonn.

Schmidt wanted to be kept more informed about parks improvement projects, and Tonn said a new group making plans to help with park improvements has asked her to help them.

â€I think you should have faith in your Parks and Recreation Director and let her do the job,†Malke urged.

Tonn said she was fine with going through the committee for authorization, and rather than having to wait all month for the next Council meeting.


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