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Bemidji City Council: Fire grant accepted

Bemidji has been exploring the idea of creating a fire district for some time.

Once Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer was hired in early 2010, he soon was charged with examining whether a fire district - which would have its own taxing authority - would be a good fit for the Bemidji area.

The city of Bemidji and the Bemidji Rural Fire Association have been discussing the idea jointly.

Now, both entities will have some funds available to explore shared fire and rescue services.

Hoefer applied for a grant through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety that would assist in studying the feasibility of expanding the cooperative efforts between the two entities.

The $22,000 grant requires a $3,000 local match. The Bemidji City Council voted unanimously to accept the grant Monday night.

City Manager John Chattin said those exploring the fire district concept have been meeting as a small group and also took a road trip to visit Cloquet. The Cloquet Area Fire District was established in 2009 when the Cloquet and Perch Lake fire departments combined.

A fire district, if supported, would operate similarly to the Bemidji Regional Airport Authority. It would have the ability to levy taxes on property owners in its coverage area.

BFD job roles

The council also voted unanimously to approve new job descriptions for paid-on-call firefighter positions.

Four new job descriptions were developed for POC roles - fire equipment operator, fire captain, assistant fire chief and deputy fire chief.

Chattin said that previously, the positions were mainly given to POC firefighters based on popularity. Now, they will be appointed positions.

Further, the new job descriptions spell out specific duties and create internal pay equity.

The last time any compensation modifications were made to POC positions was February 2002, Hoefer noted.

Councilor Roger Hellquist, vice president of Search Resources, composes a lot of descriptions for work. He commended Hoefer on the POC job descriptions.

"There are subtleties in each grade that I thought were well thought out," he said.

Hoefer said the job descriptions have been in development for about four months.

"They are good documents for us and will serve us well into the future," he said.