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  • Kevin Elliott

Rochester to assess fire department needs

The members of an ad-hoc fire study committee tasked with assessing the current and future needs of the Rochester Fire Department were approved on Monday, November 13, by the Rochester City Council.

Members of the committee include Chief John Cieslik, city manager Blaine Wing, councilman Rob Ray, and two residents appointed by the mayor. Council approved appointing residents Terry Crockatt and Valerie Gaton to the committee.

The committee, which was formed at the request of chief Cieslik, will be asked to provide recommendations to city council with options for providing services in the future, as well as how best to fund additional services in the face of a development boom.

"What I've tried to do with the fire department is to run it like a business. That is what your challenge has been to me," Cieslik said to council members. "Any good business needs an evaluation once in a while to take a look at where we've been, where we are right now and where we are going. What I would like to do with this study committee is to take a look at those things... Not only where we need to go in the future, but if we do any additional development, or if we stay the same, what the impact is on the fire department."

Cieslik said calls for service have risen from about 520 calls per year in 2008 to about 1,900 in 2017. He said he hopes the study will give the council and residents an idea of the future demands of the fire department and how those will need to be funded.

Key questions the study committee will be asked to evaluate are response times to fires; the challenges and benefits of being a paid-on-call department; equipment needs; vehicles; and other operations and expectations.

"I think an important part here is that we set the parameters as we move forward," he said. "If we have good investment and tax (revenue) goes up, and the expectations from the residents is that services go up, hopefully they get paid through additional tax dollars and not additional burden. That's my desire, to make sure we are providing the best possible services to Rochester without having to go ahead and levy any additional taxes, and we have that come from the study."

Council on Monday, October 23, had approved a request to form the ad-hoc fire committee, with the chief providing additional details about the scope of the study on Monday, November 13, when council unanimously approved appointments of members of the committee. The length of time the committee will devote to the study was not yet determined.

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