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It has been an honor to serve you

This will be the last article written by me for the Community News as Emergency Management Director/Fire Chief for the city of Carlton and the surrounding communities we serve.

This will be the last article written by me for the Community News as Emergency Management Director/Fire Chief for the city of Carlton and the surrounding communities we serve.

First I would like to say that it has been an honor to be in the capacity of Emergency Management Director/Fire Chief. I have enjoyed very much the responsibility and the rewards that have come my way over the last three and a half years. The role of Emergency Management Director/Fire Chief is a role I never took lightly. The work that was accomplished I am proud of. As a department we grew to meet the expectations and the demands of this industry and the communities we served. There were expectations and responsibilities we met head on and were successful. Our department grew into a department that nurtured and taught young EMTs and firefighters that were breaking into the field on how to handle and respond to emergencies. They learned the basic steps that are involved in pre-hospital care, fire response, tactics, and saving lives and property. Through these efforts five of our firefighter/EMTs have gone on to full time career departments. We nurtured our relationships with surrounding departments with joint training, mutual aid and auto aid agreements, technical rescue teams, and communication. Through the countywide fire chiefs association and emergency medical services association, we participated in training and joint efforts to establish professional standards and procedures throughout the county. We worked hand in hand with law enforcement on accident scenes and medical emergencies that brought our two services together. Overall the Carlton Fire and Ambulance Service stood tall in Carlton County providing emergency response to those that needed our assistance.

I truly believe that if the city of Carlton wanted to look at saving taxpayer dollars and help make the budget balance that could have been accomplished. The appearance of that not being the case was all too evident in how the elimination of the position came to be. There was no discussion on how I could look at the existing budget and trim various line items to accomplish what the city needed to accomplish to save money. At a fire board meeting on May 19, the question was asked, "Are there items in the fire budget that can be looked at for savings?" and if the fire board had a say in what the final decision with the position of Emergency Management Director/Fire Chief would be. The answer was no.

It is the decision of the mayor and council to hire, eliminate, lay off, or terminate this position. The question that needs to be asked is was all other effort made to find ways to save money before this type of decision was made? I believe there were ways to accomplish what needed to be accomplished to save money and balance the budget for future years. The expectation of taxpayer burden is more evident today than ever before. The fact that the state is moving toward further reduction of Local Government Aid and other contributing programs is not going to go away. It appears more and more that the ultimate end result will be total elimination of that program and cities will have to rely more and more on cutting back city services.

Similar to what school districts are facing, emergency services throughout the country and the state are looking towards how we can better provide emergency services to our communities and keep costs at a workable level. These services are needed by all of us. When that loved one has a medical condition or the chimney catches fire, we expect and deserve a quick response from professional who can do the job. Fortunately we have that luxury right here in Carlton County. The surrounding departments have skilled professionals who are there to respond and answer that call. The efficiencies and money saving components can be accomplished. How that is accomplished is a work in progress.

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In December of 2009, Governor Pawlenty authorized a task force to look into shared services. Their task is to look at what has been created, what has been discussed, what is currently in the works, and what is currently out there that demonstrates a working model where shared services is concerned. This group of professionals from throughout the state are stakeholders from communities like ours working hard to put together two or three models that may assist communities in tackling this enormous task of shared services. Four years ago, Carlton Fire and the city of Carlton entered into discussions with the communities of Cloquet, Perch Lake, Esko, Scanlon, Wrenshall and Fond du Lac Reservation in how we can provide EMS services to our communities jointly. These discussions ended when dollars and cents seemed to be too steep for some communities to stay in the talks. Carlton was one of the communities that decided it was not the time to look at any type of merger or consolidation with these other communities. I do believe there were a couple of issues that needed to be addressed by the Fire District Board that the city met with before Carlton could move forward with the talks. I also believe these issues could have been met and discussed without having to completely remove ourselves from further discussion.

Do I believe this type of direction is right for Carlton? Yes, I do. Coming together is a beginning...keeping together is progress...working together is a success! Cooperative service is a viable way to keep and maintain emergency services wherever you are. The opportunities are out there for everyone to be a part of. I have always believed that the right steps to take to accomplish a goal include filling yourself with knowledge and asking questions to those who have the answers and the information you need to make an educated decision. This is where progress builds on the traditions every department has established from its foundation.

I'd like to close by saying I heard a lot about tradition during these discussions, most prominently from the smaller departments. I hold the utmost respect for tradition and I believe there is not an industry in the world that honors tradition more prominently than the fire industry. All of these departments have strong histories full of tradition. What I think is missed is this: tradition should be a guidepost, not a jailer. All of these departments, if they review their history, have grown and changed and expanded throughout the years and they all had strong leaders who fought for that growth. Put quite simply, this is just another span of growth for departments that have strived tirelessly to provide the best service possible to the people they serve. If they reflect honestly on the traditions they have built, they will find they are rooted with dedication and boosted with ever present change that is just the dynamic of this industry.

Thank you. Be safe out there!

Related Topics: CARLTONFIRES
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