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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

New leadership provides fresh transparency at Ely Fire Dept.

Keith Vandervort
Posted 6/9/21

ELY – The Ely Fire Department is in the midst of a renovation, of sorts, as new fire chief David Marshall has implemented many new procedures and policies in his first several weeks on the …

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New leadership provides fresh transparency at Ely Fire Dept.

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ELY – The Ely Fire Department is in the midst of a renovation, of sorts, as new fire chief David Marshall has implemented many new procedures and policies in his first several weeks on the job.
Marshall, a longtime member of the all-volunteer fire department, took over the position earlier this spring upon the resignation of Tom Erchull, who held the post for about a decade.
Right off the bat, Marshall began a new process of reporting on departmental updates and new procedures to the city council through extensive minutes of the EFD’s regular meetings, and provides a verbal report at each council meeting in a move to provide more transparency.
Last month, Marshall provided a proposed slate of officers for the EFD and requested a pay raise for personnel.
“This proposal is the first pay increase for these officer positions since they were created in November 2010,” Marshall wrote in a memo to council members. The approved pay rates increase annual EFD payroll expenses by $2,475.
“These officers represent the leadership of the Ely Fire Department,” Marshall said. “All are seasoned veterans of the department and well respected by department members. While none of them do this for the money, it is my intent to ask more of these folks as officers, including attendance at regular officer meetings and assistance in maintaining span of control at incidents. All are fully capable of assuming command when needed and they are willing to accept additional departmental responsibilities.”
John Zobitz retains his position as First Assistant Chief. He resigned earlier in the year, citing “a difference of opinion” with the fire chief at the time. With the change in leadership, Zobitz requested he return to the second chair. Other EFD officers include Second Fire Chief Kevin Gilbert, Safety Officers Greg Jonas and Mike Zgonc, EMS Officer Kristen Zobitz, and Captains Ryan Callen, Chris Vesel and Mark Weber.
Chief Marshall reported to the council last week that the department responded to what may be a modern-day record of 24 calls, fire and medical, between May 10 and 24.
He highlighted a couple of minor dispatch calls, including a request for mutual aid from the Morse/Fall Lake Fire Department for a cabin and sheds on fire on an island on Burntside Lake. A firefighter was injured in the that fire response, he said.
“He may need surgery,” he said.
Early in the morning on May 24, at both the Ely school district and the Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital, the automatic alarms were activated.
“This is probably a fire chief’s worst nightmare,” he said. “For a brief moment I thought we were the victim of Russian hacking of these systems.”
Marshall explained the alarms were kicked due to the switch from water tower pressure to pump pressure while the water tower underwent a repainting project.
“That increase in pressure was enough to trip the alarms,” he said.
Chief Marshall presented his list of expectations for those who serve on the Ely Fire Department:
• Members are here for the right reasons, not money or pensions. We are here to help people in their time of need. That’s what we do and we can’t lose sight of this. This is why we exist, and this should be why each of us chose to make a commitment to the EFD.
• We will disagree on how best to achieve our mission, and that’s all right as long as we don’t lose sight of why we exist, are respectful when we disagree, and keep the disagreement within the department. When we do our job, we do it as a unified department.
• Members can disagree with the Chief and that is all right as long as doing so doesn’t put anyone’s safety at risk. Put concerns on the table and let’s sort through them. We may not agree, but you will always be listened to and treated with respect.
• Membership in good standing matters. Efforts matter. If you can’t make all of a training, make some of it. We are all busy. We choose to make time for things that matter most to us. Officers are here to work with members. We want everyone to be active in this department. If you can’t carve out time to be a member in good standing, consider stepping down or taking a leave of absence. For 2021, members are expected to make at least 12 of the 24 trainings, meetings, maintenance nights.
• We need members at 100 percent. If you are not feeling well, don’t come to calls, trainings or meetings. If you have been consuming alcohol, don’t come to calls, trainings or meetings. The public trusts us. We owe them 100 percent.
Council action
At their June 1 meeting the city council:
• Agreed to convene an ATV task force to update city rules and ordinances concerning operation on city streets and state and county right-of-ways. An influx of new ATV/UTV owners and visitors to the area has caused increased confusion on where and how the off-road vehicles can be operated.
• Hired Dustin Anderson for the city infrastructure maintenance position.
• Hired Cory Easton for a city custodial position.
• Approved residential rehab loans for Bryan Edlund, 925 E. Harvey St., and Jennifer Laverdure, 336 E. Chapman St.
• Accepted the resignation of Mary Greninger from the Ely Tree Board and agreed to advertise the open position.
• Approved the official Fourth of July parade for this year and authorized the city council, police and fire departments to participate.

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