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Colfax agrees to trade services with fire department

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  Although the Colfax Village Board has agreed to trade snowplowing for filling the skating rink with the Colfax Community Fire Department, it remains to be seen whether the fire board will go along with it.

The Colfax Village Board approved an amendment to the development agreement with fire department at the January 14 meeting to allow the trade of services.

A letter from the Colfax Community Fire Board prompted the amendment.

 “It is our understanding that the initial tentative agreement whereby the village would plow snow from the new fire station parking lot in exchange for use of the fire department equipment to fill the skating rink, flush sewer pipes and so on is no longer acceptable to village board members. Therefore, fire department equipment and vehicles will no longer be available to the village for public works tasks including those mentioned previously,” wrote Mark Warner, chair of the fire board.

The development agreement with the fire department originally stated that the village would not do any maintenance at the new fire hall.

Plowing snow from the parking lot at the new fire station on county Highway M would be in exchange for the fire department filling and maintaining the skating pond at Tom Prince Memorial Park.

Private contractors

Richard Johnson, village trustee, said he had objected to the fire department and the village exchanging services at the time of the development agreement and that he still objected to trading services.

If the village plows the fire station parking lot and the fire department fills the skating rink, “we are competing with the private sector,” Johnson said.

Johnson prefers that the village and the fire department pay private contractors to plow snow and to fill the skating rink.

Jackie Ponto, administrator-clerk-treasurer, said that an exchange of services would be easier than invoicing back and forth.

In the event of a snowstorm, “emergency services should be plowed right away,” she noted.

Garden hose

Beverly Schauer, village trustee, wondered how the skating rink had been filled this year.

Rand Bates, public works director, said he had filled the rink with a hose, using 14,000 gallons over a 24-hour period.

Filling the skating rink is one thing, but now the rink needs maintenance, he said.

The pump on the fire truck sprays a mist that puts a smooth glaze on the skating rink, Bates said.

“It’s better than flooding it,” he said, noting that using a hose now would wear holes in the ice.

Filling the skating rink with a hose was all right initially but “misting is better for maintenance,” Bates said.

Chris Olson, village trustee, said he had checked with the fire department about the cost of filling the rink and was told the charge would be $1,600 using the village’s own water.

Chris Olson also said he had checked with a private contractor and that it would cost the village $3,000 to have the skating rink filled with the village’s own water.

Bates said plowing the fire department parking lot would take perhaps 15 or 20 minutes and that village employees would not be shoveling sidewalks or approaches.

If the village does not have an agreement with the fire department, “the next thing you know, we will be buying equipment to haul water,” Schauer said.

Point taken

Gary Stene, village president, said Johnson’s point about competing with the private sector was well taken.

Ponto agreed that it was commendable to think of business owners in the area.

“But we have the equipment to clean (the snow) quickly. It would be two government entities trading. It would be mutually agreeable and beneficial,” Stene said.

“I would favor us doing that, and it’s good PR,” he said.

The Colfax Village Board approved an amendment to the development agreement with the Colfax Community Fire Department on a vote of six to one.

Stene, Schauer, Chris Olson, Scott Gunnufson, Mark Halpin and Susan Olson voted in favor of the motion.

Johnson voted against the motion.

The amendment applies to the development agreement dated October 10, 2011, between the Village of Colfax and the Colfax Community Fire Department and includes the village plowing snow and sanding the parking lot at the fire station in exchange for the fire department filling and maintaining the skating rink.

The Colfax Community Fire Department Board also will have to approve the agreement before the exchange of services can take place.