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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Community Fire Department has not yet made a decision about whether to hold the Firefighters’ Ball in September.
The firefighters are going to make their decision at the end of July, said Colfax Fire Chief Don Logslett at a meeting of the Colfax Community Fire Department Board June 25.
Logslett said the firefighters wanted to wait and see what the situation was with COVID-19 as the summer progresses.
The Firefighters’ Ball in September draws a large crowd downtown for the parade, and then there is a crowd at the fairgrounds for the chicken dinner, the auction, the penny hunt, the pedal tractor pull and other activities.
Even though the rate of COVID-19 infections in Wisconsin had been decreasing for a while, more recently, the rate of infection has been increasing again, with spikes occurring in surrounding counties.
Even if the Firefighters’ Ball does not take place, the fire department will still probably hold the gun raffle, Logslett said.
“We hate to give up on it. We make a lot of money, but if we have to, we have to,” he said.
For the parade, people are packed all along Main Street, noted Jessica Checkalski, secretary/treasurer for the fire board.
High school bands march in the parade, and they might not want to march, either, because they are so close together, said Gary Bjork, chair of the Colfax fire board.
The Colfax fire board reviewed the financial statement from 2019.
On December 31, 2019, the vehicle replacement fund contained $172,748.46, and the money market business account had an ending balance of $43,361.81.
All together, $112,700 was budgeted for expenses in 2019, and the actual expenses were $96,851.50.
A budget surplus of $11,487.66 was deposited into the vehicle replacement fund in May, Checkalski said.
The fire department’s money market business account had been receiving the municipality interest rate of nearly 2 percent, but because of the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19, the interest rate dropped to .1 percent, she said, noting that the fire department currently is receiving an interest rate of .6 percent
The fire department will soon have to replace some of the turnout gear for the firefighters, Logslett said.
A grant can most likely be obtained to offset at least some or maybe most of the cost, he said.
If the turnout gear is more than 10 years old, then firefighters cannot go to school for certification using the 10-year-old turnout gear, Logslett said.
Many of the grants now want some percentage of matching funds, so the fire board should think about setting aside some funds in the next budget as matching funds for grants, he said.
The rule for 10-year-old turnout gear is based on full-time fire departments that use their turnout gear every day, Logslett said.
A rural department like Colfax might use the turnout gear once or twice per month, he said.
Although the firefighters had been thinking of selling the Suburban, the new firefighters are now using it to go to school in Glenwood City, Logslett said.
Having the ability to use the Suburban saves the fire department paying mileage to the firefighters for driving their own vehicles, he said.
When asked whether the Colfax fire department was having difficulty maintaining the roster of fighters, Logslett said while some of the older firefighters had retired, new candidates had come on board to take their places.
The fire department typically has 27 to 30 firefighters on the roster. Fighting fires in the summer is a little more difficult because many of the firefighters work out of town. During the winter, many of them are laid off, Logslett said.
Now that the fire department has obtained the ultra high-pressure system and a pickup truck for the high-pressure system through a $25,000 Bremer Foundation grant and $20,000 from the fire board, with the difference being made up by the firefighters, Logslett was asked if the fire department had yet had a chance to use the ultra high-pressure system.
“We used it yesterday on a bean field fire yesterday. It knocked it down right away, good and quick,” Logslett said.