By Beth Bily
The availability of more funding for a combined emergency services facility for the cities of Bovey and Coleraine may hinge on the degree to which the cities agree to collaborate.
That was the message delivered to city officials at a joint meeting last week by Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL – Balsam, who has been instrumental in securing funding for a joint emergency services facility.
SEH executives also were present at last week’s joint meeting and presented the two cities with three options for a shared emergency services facility – with three separate price tags. The least expensive option carries a cost of $1.6 million with the most expensive option carrying a $2.3 million price tag.
Anzelc noted that he and state Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL – Grand Rapids have been working to secure funding for regional emergency services for the past four years. The move toward shared services goes beyond Bovey/Coleraine.
Greenway Township, Marble and Calumet merged fire services in 2010. The joint Greenway Fire Department also is planning a new emergency services facility.
Through legislative allocation and a recent $450,000 grant awarded by Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, there’s approximately $610,000 available to construct a joint emergency services facility. That’s far short of the $1.6 million estimate but Anzelc indicated that a greater push toward collaboration or even consolidation might yield more funding.
“The willingness of the IRRRB to go to this $1.6, $2 or $2.3 million level (will be determined by) the degree to which the cities will collaborate,” he said.
That could mean greater integration of the two cities’ police departments and public works. Several meeting participants also noted that a new facility wouldn’t make much sense if there were still two separately functioning fire departments.
“The drive here is toward efficiency and savings and people,” said Anzelc.
At least one Coleraine counselor was interested in exploring the possibilities of further collaboration. Lee Mattfield said he’d like to get additional information on how other cities that have collaborated or even merged service delivery have done it.
While city councils might be behind the idea of collaboration or even, to some degree, consolidation of services, any final decision could end up in the hands of citizens.
Coleraine City Clerk Sandy Bluntach reported to local officials at last week’s meeting that some research on the topic has indicated that some merger moves may merit a public seal of approval.
“Certain things have to go to a referendum,” she said. “It has to go to the voters of each community (to determine) if they want to combine.”
At a joint emergency services committee meeting held Tuesday, a fourth emergency services facility design option with a price tag of $1.75 million was reviewed. The committee agreed to let the fourth option for bids using a pole barn style design to determine if the change would reduce costs.