Rushford Fire Chief Chad Rasmussen presented the proposed contract and mill rate for 2022-2023 to the city council at its October 25 meeting. The volunteer department is the only known to conduct a bi-annual mill rate meeting for the 10 townships it provides fire protection to. Those townships include Arendahl, Norway, Preble, and the cities of Peterson and Rushford Village in Fillmore County, Money Creek and Yucatan in Houston County, and Fremont, Hart, and Wiscoy in Winona County. The most recent meeting was held October 18.
Tax capacity for each township is multiplied by the percentage of coverage and then the rate to determine the fee that will be paid to the department by each member. The amounts range from $1,494 to $20,857, with Rushford Village, Norway Township, and Hart Township being the highest. The proposed rate for the new contract remains .0165, which it’s been since 2018. Payments are due to the department by March of each contract year.
“We had a good turnout this year,” said Rasmussen. Highlighting his report, he noted the meeting covered financials for the year, current firemen, recent retirees, and new department members, expenses, and cash investments for the year. “I believe that the rate seems to be plenty. It gives us $84,901 annually. As a whole, I think our rate is fair. We have new equipment down there and funds for major investments.”
Not all townships sent a representative to the meeting, but all received the packet of information. “They really enjoy Rushford because we share with them what we’re doing and why,” added Rasmussen. “They always say thanks because nobody else does it.” Rasmussen indicated he’d do a little research on rates in other municipalities at the upcoming area chiefs’ meeting. “Other departments have said they don’t have funds for needs,” he added. “It’s a lot easier to keep it flat and know you’ve got the money in there.”
There was some question from townships who would like to shift additional coverage to the Rushford Department due to proximity to the city. Additionally, the department was asked about a battery-powered extrication tool.
“We were asked why we didn’t have that yet,” acknowledged Rasmussen. “We had a call two weeks ago where a vehicle was close to 175 feet down the ditch. What would we do in that instance?” The chief noted the high cost of the equipment, in the tens of thousands. “It’s worth it, but I don’t think we need it yet.” The department does have two other extrication tools, but they must be operated within distance of their trucks. Rasmussen estimated that they can reach roughly 50 feet.
“There’s been a couple of times we’ve been really close. We’ve been really lucky and had other tools that we can use. I’ve thought about it hard,” added Rasmussen. The department will be looking at a demo set during an upcoming training meeting. “We’re just making sure we’re prepared for instances where our current extrication tools won’t reach.”
The department, as well as the Rushford Ambulance Service, is also trying out a 120-day trial of a new communication application to their system. The Emergency Response Software, Active911, will work through the firemen’s phones and a television monitor in the department garage. It provides information in real time regarding who’s responding or unavailable, tracks the location and time of arrival of those responding, provides details on the location of the call, directions, mileage and more.
“It’s new to us and Fillmore County and provides a snapshot of what you’re going to and you’re able to see it as it happens,” said Rasmussen. The software will cost $13.95 per year per fireman once the trial ends.
The council unanimously approved the new mill rate contracts.
In other news, the council approved a new Economic Development Authority Revolving Loan Fund Residential Rehabilitation Loan for 505 West Stevens Avenue. This is the eighth such loan approved since 2020. The program has approved $143,671 in gap funding for residential properties whose owners meet the Semcac requirements. Those approved receive loans, not to exceed $24,999, at a rate of 2% for 10 years with no payments until the home is sold or it is no longer the primary residence. The most recent loan will pay for a garage door replacement, rear retaining wall, and exterior painting of the property.
As a reminder, City of Rushford elections will be held Tuesday, November 2, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., at city hall. Council seats up for consideration are that of Mayor Terri Benson and Councilors Andrew Linder and Sally Ryman. All are candidates on the ballot.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, November 8, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. It is open to the public.