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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Some Greenwood residents want fire response from Cook

Jodi Summit
Posted 2/15/23

GREENWOOD TWP- A resident and former township supervisor asked the Greenwood Town Board, Tuesday, to secure better fire protection for residents in the western portion of the …

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Some Greenwood residents want fire response from Cook


GREENWOOD TWP- A resident and former township supervisor asked the Greenwood Town Board, Tuesday, to secure better fire protection for residents in the western portion of the township.
“Greenwood does not have an automatic page set up with the Cook Fire Department,” said Kirsten Reichel. “Given our location, Cook could respond quicker, they are only 13 miles away.”
Property owners in the formerly unorganized township do receive better fire protection when the lake is open, due to the township’s fire boats. And it was property owners in that area who had initiated the annexation process, back in the late 1990s.
“As annexed properties, we expect to have guarantee of the basic services the township promised to provide,” Reichel said. “We feel it is up to the board or the current chief to negotiate an agreement with Cook.”
Reichel said the area in question has two resorts and 15 homes with year-round residents.
“We still pay taxes to the township, but we don’t have access to the recreational amenities at the town hall and paved trail,” she said, pointing out it takes her 40 minutes to drive from her home to the town hall.
She also asked that the fire department explore mutual aid options with the Buyck Fire Department.
The Greenwood Fire Department, Chief Jeff Maus explained, does have a mutual aid agreement with the Cook Fire Department, and in cases of a structure fire in that area will call out the Cook Fire Department even before Greenwood leaves the fire hall.
Maus said the department had spoken with the assistant chief in Cook in the past about setting up the automatic, “box alarm,” system, but no action had been taken.
Maus noted that geography was a huge factor.
“There is a lake in the way,” he said.
Reichel, who herself was a member of the Cook Fire Department years ago, said she understood the logistical challenges. But she insisted her neighbors wanted a box alarm system set up with Cook within a month, or else the residents would look into the possibility of being annexed by Beatty Township.
“Cook is just as well trained,” she said. “Members can’t be a firefighter until they finish their training.”
That section of the township is part of the Cook Ambulance District and is happy with that service, she said.
The board said they would contact the Cook Fire Department as soon as possible to begin discussions on setting up the automatic alarm and would keep Reichel informed on any progress.
Firefighters removed
The board passed a motion to accept the “voluntary quit, with option to return after six months” of department members David Fazio, Rick Worringer, Tammy Mortaloni, Howard Ankrum, Jim Galonski, Hunter Gilbert, and Tom Mortaloni. These members were among the ten members who, last month, had left their gear bagged up at the town hall and had sent an unsigned letter to Supervisor Mike Ralston stating their intention to resign if the board did not remove Maus as chief and give the department the authority to elect their own officers. The board had previously removed member Mike Indihar.
Maus said he had contacted all the members who had left gear and asked them to get in touch with him if they didn’t intend to resign.
Department member Jim “Jet” Galonski was at the meeting and suggested no one intended to leave the department. “Nobody is resigning. Nobody signed a letter,” he told the board.
“Jim Galonski did get in touch with me. But he did turn in his gear,” Maus said, noting he could not discuss individual personnel issues at the public meeting.
The vote to approve the “voluntary quits” was 2-1, with Supervisors Sue Drobac and Rick Stoehr voting in favor, Supervisor Paul Skubic voting against, and Supervisor Barb Lofquist abstaining. Supervisor Mike Ralston was absent.
The board also voted 3-1, with Skubic voting against, to terminate Belinda Fazio from the department due to lack of participation.
Other fire department actions
Maus said the department was in the process of setting up a box alarm with Virginia for any structure fire calls at Fortune Bay Resort Casino. He also said that their EMS department has a 1.6-million-gallon dry hydrant system at the golf course, which is being repaired, and the department will be allowed to use that as a water source in the winter if needed on a fire call in the township.
The board approved changes to the rules for pension credit, increasing the required responses to one every two months (six per year), and attendance at 12 trainings. Previously a department member only needed to respond for two calls in a year to earn pension credit.
Maus also noted that Greenwood’s pension, set at $3,000 per year after fully vested, was higher than other larger area departments, and that Greenwood paid a higher hourly wage. The six-call requirement works out to an average of 12 percent of the annual calls, he said, which is on the low end of requirements for other area departments.
Maus got board approval to pay the administrative assistant $25 per hour to enter about 225 previous calls into the computer system. This work was not completed under the previous fire department leadership, he said, and is required for some state reporting systems as well as for grant applications. He felt this work was on top of the regularly required duties, so should qualify as a special job.
Maus also got approval to purchase a laptop and Microsoft software subscription for the administrative assistant to use, since her home computer (Chromebook style) was not compatible with the township’s systems.
Maus also got permission from the board to start working to get the department’s First Responders certified to administer some medications on scene before the Tower Ambulance arrives. This would mean additional training to become an EMT, and possibly to become members of the Tower Ambulance Service.
“We would like to have Greenwood have the highest level of medical care possible,” he said.
Maus will also contact the ambulance services medical director to see what other options may be possible.


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