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Fire trucks are a meeting topic in Soldiers Grove
Soldiers Grove

SOLDIERS GROVE - Yet again, the Soldiers Grove Fire Department’s new brush truck and the truck it replaced became the focus of attention at the village board meeting last Thursday.

The matter of the old brush truck seemed to be resolved at the July meeting, when the board voted to allow the department to keep the old truck for another six months.

However, the vote became confused later, when it was learned that Harrison Heilman, the new village trustee should have been allowed to abstain. In the July meeting, it was ruled that he would not be allowed to abstain because he did not have a direct and demonstrable conflict of interest to keep him from voting. When the village asked their attorney for advice on the situation, the lawyer told them any trustee could abstain from voting for any reason. So, the item was placed on last week’s agenda for reconsideration.

The fire department report began with Soldiers Grove Fire Chief Ben Clason updating the board on the progress of integrating a mutual aid system known as MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System). Clason informed the board that adoption of MABAS was underway, but it was being rolled out slowly.

As requested the board approved resolutions and agreements affirming they would be part of the system. Village trustee Vicki Campbell moved and Jerry Miller seconded the motion to continue the village’s participation in MABAS.

There was some discussion of the electrical repairs needed at the fire station building. The repairs were bid by Forkash Electric. Some on the board had sought to see if the village could save money on some of the materials included in the bid by having the village purchase them.

Clason cautioned the board that Forkash was much more familiar with what would be needed to provide the performance necessary under the emergency conditions that might be encountered at the fire station.

When it was discovered that the village’s bid on a reel of wire of the same quality as the wire in the bid was essentially the same price, it was decided to go with the bid as presented, complete with the materials as bid by Forkash.

Village trustee Shayne Chapman moved to accept the Forkash bid, Paul Nicholson seconded the motion and the board approved it.

The board discussed and approved getting a credit card for the department to use for off-hour fuel purchases. The card will have a $1,000 limit. The motion was made by Campbell, seconded by Nicholson and approved by the board.

The department has an account at Campbell’s One Stop, the convenience store located just a couple of hundred yards from the fire station. However, the trucks sometimes return after 10 p.m. and no gas can be purchased accept through the use of credit cards. In the past, fire department members have charged gas to their personal credit cards and got reimbursed later.

Clason emphasized that returning fire trucks needed to be filled with fuel, so they are ready to respond to the next fire.

Village trustee Vicki Campbell expressed her support of the fire department. However, Campbell has missed the past two meetings, so she wasn’t present for the discussion that led to the vote to keep the old brush truck for six more months and reassess the situation then.

Campbell questioned why the agreed upon and approved motion of acquiring the new truck and then selling the old one was not followed.

Clason acknowledged that the old truck was marginal and could break down at any point in the future. However, the fire chief saw its value in the field as a supplemental vehicle that could be used to haul more equipment, as well as pull the new brush truck out of an area should it become stuck.

The estimated value of 30-plus-year-old truck was estimated at about $3,000 to $5,000.

Several village trustees questioned the reliability and usefulness of the older brush truck. Trustee Paul Nicholson, who noted his decades of experience working as a mechanic, questioned the wisdom of keeping the old brush truck.

Clason acknowledged the vehicle sometimes failed to go into reverse. However, the chief thought it could still play a role in fighting fires in the rural areas.

Soldiers Grove Village President Steve George worried that the old truck might fail and result in injuries to someone for which the village might be liable.

After a long discussion on the truck’s potential to be a liability to the village, Nicholson made a motion to sell the truck and Roy Davidson seconded the motion. On a roll call vote, the board passed the motion to sell the old truck 6-1 with Heilman, the board’s newest member, abstaining.

George noted the action was taken because of the safety issue the truck presented.

An obviously frustrated fire chief rose to exit the room.

“I will have my resignation in by tomorrow morning,” Clason said as he walked out of the room. “You guys make the decision. I’m done.”

Clason had said earlier that there seemed to be some kind of fog line (in communication) between the people at the fire station and people meeting in the community building.

As of Tuesday, Clason indicated that he had not submitted his resignation as fire chief and is reconsidering his options.

However, Soldiers Grove Village President Steve George took a different view of the resignation. George said that Clason had resigned on Monday and he had turned in his pager.

The village president said that he asked firefighter Roger Olson to serve as the Soldiers Grove Fire Chief. George reported that Olson has accepted the position.

George emphasized that while Olson will replace Clason as fire chief, Ben Clason is welcome to continue to serve as a firefighter with the department.

Laurel Hestetune gave the Community Development Corporation (CDC) Report.

Hestetune said the CDC had about $66,000 in the money market account and $304 in the regular checking account. He noted Country Garden and the Old Oak Inn were up-to-date on their room tax payments, but the Roth House was not up-to-date.

The CDC is currently receiving monthly payments on two outstanding loans, Hestetune told the board.

Two other organizations are showing interest in getting loans from the CDC, Hestetune reported. One is the pastured pork co-op, which is in the process of closing a deal on the old dairy building owned by Guy Nelson. In addition to the co-op members' pork, the group plans to offer custom butchering services to area farmers. They may also run a retail store capitalizing on their high visibility location on Highway 61.

Another group led by Justin Benson is considering opening a wellness center in the former Star Karate Studio on North Clayton Road. The group may also be interested in funding from a CDC loan.

The board heard a brief presentation on supporting the resolution to designate the Village of Soldiers Grove Telecommuter Forward! Certified. Becoming part of the state-certified program will allow the village to leverage some state funding and assistance to help recruit telecommuters to relocate to the village. All Soldiers Grove residences and businesses are, or could be, supplied with fiber optic cable from the Richland-Grant Telephone Co-op for high-speed broadband internet connectivity.

In other business, the Soldiers Grove Village Board:

• accepted a bid of $17,095 from Iverson to do paving on Pleasant and Park Streets-$8,683 will be reimbursed by the Wisconsin  Local Roads Improvement Program

• discussed hiring a replacement for village worker Rick Salmon and decided to advertise for the position

• approved a request for police security at the Driftless Art Festival

• approved an update to the raze and remove order for a structure at 100 Prospect Street that gives owners another 30 days to comply