By Jackie Taylor
Linn County News – November 30, 2016
Submitted by Newz Group – December 30, 2016
Following an injury to Mound City Fire Chief Matt Cochran earlier in the year and the inability of Mound City to recruit enough firefighters, Mayor Mat Casner asked the County Commissioners if they would be willing to incorporate Mound City into Linn County Rural Fire coverage.
Casner said they’d been working on trying to recruit firefighters for a while. But with Cochran’s injury, things slowed down and Casner said the city learned that their fire rating will increase from 6 to 10, essentially doubling homeowner insurance rates and increasing commercial coverage by unknown amounts.
“If it is an agreeable course of action, the council would like to pursue it,” said Casner of the city’s formal request to incorporate Mound City into county fire coverage.
County Commissioner Vicki Leonard asked who would own the fire equipment Mound City currently owns and Commissioner Rick James asked for what the council was hoping.
Casner said, “We can’t offer a lot in terms of equipment.”
He explained that their fire truck is an open top unit that is being discontinued by fire services. In addition, it needs a lot of repair. He said they did have hoses and other miscellaneous equipment they could offer.
Casner said, “I contacted dispatch and we were called out 14 times in 2015; half were for lift assists.”
County Counselor Gary Thompson said, “There will need to be a formal agreement between the city and the county. The agreement could say the city drops their mill levy to support the Rural Fire Department.”
With that the commissioners learned that Mound City does not have a line item for the fire department; expenses that equal approximately $3,000 come from the general budget.
Casner said they have a building that houses the fire truck, but he wasn’t clear if the fire truck would become the county’s to surplus or stay with the city.
James said, “I don’t want the rest of the county to suffer.”
He continued that he did not want the entire county ISO rating, at 5, that dictates insurance rates to increase by adding Mound City, which was now at a 10.
Thompson explained that county taxpayers would pick up the increase in budget of approximately 3 mills in 2018 as 2017 was already set. Mound City already has $3,300 in their budget to support the fire department in 2017.
It was estimated that Mound City taxpayers would increase their property taxes by $23 for a $100,000 home when the county picked up fire coverage.
Commissioner Mike Page said, “It’s all about helping you, but we need to make sure it doesn’t create a negative impact. It’s similar to what Parker and Blue Mound had to do.”
Casner said, “It’s already perceived that Mound City is Station 910.”
“You’re not in any jeopardy,” said James. “The phone rings and the county will go.”
Casner said, “We’ve leaned on the county a lot in the last year.”
James again stated concern over what the incorporation would do to the county’s ISO rating.
County Fire Chief Doug Barlet told the commissioners that he’d get hold of “Mr. Conrad,” who handles ISO ratings, who indicated he’d rush it through.
With that Barlet said it’d still take a minimum of four months to get the ISO rating.
Thompson said, “Assuming you won’t get hurt on the ISO rating, I can sketch out an agreement that includes equipment, a year of no funding, and other details.”
Casner said he’d talk to the City Council next Monday night about the agreement, and Thompson continued that there would have to be steps taken for Mound City to be included in the county mill levy.
With that, the commissioners discussed that there is an inter-local agreement already in place and fire coverage would continue.
Barlet said, “It will take six months to get the rate back down to 5 or, at worst, 6. There is a 75-day advertising requirement to publish so insurance companies know.”
County Clerk David Lamb said, “Insurance doubling will cost a lot more than the mill levy increase. Anyone that gets evaluated in the window from now to when it gets rerated, their insurance will double.”