Wykoff firefighters to get new turnout gear

The street project off South Main Street is ongoing in Wykoff, and the work includes replacing water and sewer pipes and resurfacing the street. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Wykoff’s City Council approved the purchase of new turnout gear for its firefighters during the Sept. 10 council meeting, easing chief Wade Baker’s concerns that the gear that the crew is wearing while fighting fires is not expired and meets the Occupational Safety Hazard Administration’s (OSHA) guidelines. 

Baker gave his monthly report on fire department business, listing that the department, which has 22 members, is in need of replacement bunker pants and turnout coats, as last year’s efforts were to obtain grants to replace the boots that the firefighters need to safely venture into a fire. 

“It’s regulation that they be changed out every 10 years, and it’s $2,000 per set, so that’s $34,000.  The hoods — we have cancer-blocking hoods that are $97 each that we need to keep the fumes out of the guys’ helmets so that they don’t get through the skin on their necks and cause cancer, and that’s a total of $2,200 if we’re buying all 22,” Baker told the council. “We’ve tried to get grants for those as well, and we’ve received a $3,000 grant to replace our hose line because those are extremely old.  Everything works, but if OSHA comes in, there’s a fine.” 

City clerk Becky Schmidt inquired as to whether there are allowances made for small towns in light of the reality that cities have more fire calls and therefore wear out their gear more quickly. 

Baker replied that there are no allowances and that he did not want to send his crew out ill-equipped. 

Furthermore, he had a thermal imager on the agenda as another request because the one that the department has been using requires that the firefighter know exactly what the image is in relation to the fire being fought; the thermal imager that the department would like to someday have would have a color key so that there is no question as to how hot the fire is behind a door or wall and whether the image is a human -- with a precise body temperature as humans have -- or an inanimate object. 

Councilor Mary Sackett questioned what Baker felt the priority would be in terms of the amount of money made available for the department, as the imager was estimated to cost $4,600. 

Schmidt spoke of a sum of $24,000 that she had discovered in the books set aside for the Fire Department that she stated had no specific earmark, and Baker shared that that amount was put in to accumulate for a new fire truck, but that a new truck hasn’t happened just yet. 

Councilor Mary Tjepkes registered, “Right now, I think the most important thing is to get this new gear.  You’ve got to have new gear.” 

Councilor Richard Gleason concurred, saying, “We’ve got to prioritize the protection of the people.  That’s what we have to focus on.” 

When it came to whether the identified $24,000 could be used for such a purpose — to buy 12 full sets of gear — Tjepkes and Gleason both emphatically said, “Absolutely.” 

Mayor Al Williams sought confirmation of their decision when he asked Gleason, “Is that a second on that ‘absolutely?’” 

Gleason affirmed his statement, after which the council voted unanimously to purchase more turnout gear for the city’s fire crew.

Street improvement project

Engineer Daren Sikkink, of WHKS, came with documents related to the street improvement project being carried out on South Main Street to handle sewer backups and upgrading the water and sewer infrastructure.  He spoke about how there had been an “unfortunate” recent sewer backup into a home, going on to cite the likely cause, but Schmidt interrupted him to ask that he not elaborate in public due to an ongoing lawsuit brought against the city by a resident whose home had been damaged by a backup. 

He went on to outline that with good weather, the project should be completed soon and that upon further inspection, there was an extended footage that could be improved on South Main to Centennial. 

Gleason made a motion to include the footage in the project, and Councilor Rocky Vreeman seconded, after which the rest of the council officially agreed. 

Parking issues

Gleason brought up parking issues, as determining a parking ordinance has been of interest to the council over the past two to three months.  He informed the council that he had received a complaint from the owner of Goodies and Gas, Wykoff’s only gas station and convenience store, that there had been a car parked for days in front of the service drive that the station uses to bring in inventory from delivery trucks.  It was learned that the individual who parked the car there lives in another town and thought that leaving it there for that period of time would not cause any difficulty, but the council debated as to what constitutes reasonable parking limits and how to enforce them if an ordinance or policy is drafted. 

Schmidt interjected that while it might be preferential to defer the county- and state-owned highways that form Wykoff’s Gold Street, its main street, to those entities, she had checked with the county and found that the city is indeed responsible for any parking ordinances and the enforcement thereof.  The council decided to continue working on the matter and not take any official action.

Campground proposal

Schmidt proposed that the council consider creating a city campground as a means of attracting visitors, as she had researched the subject because she and her husband have traveled to camp elsewhere and generally choose city campgrounds over other options because they are less expensive than the other grounds.  She itemized the expenses of the proposal for a half-dozen site campground and shared that the total cost would be approximately $19,000 if electrical service were to be installed.  The city could rent portable potties to serve campers’ needs. 

“When Forestville is full, we could catch the overflow of campers,” said Schmidt. “Wykoff has nothing drawing people in.  It’s stagnant, not growing.  This would have an $820 yearly expense.”        

Line Street

The surveying and vacation of Line Street — which theoretically passes right through the former school building now owned by Rod Thompson and Rick Stockman — garnered some attention from the council because work needs to be completed and neighbors notified of the findings.  Neighbor Mike Sabatke’s property line has been in question because of the way that a parcel was exchanged several years ago to adjust the property line.  The council also tabled the vacation of the street until the surveying is finished.  

Other items

One of the final items on the agenda encompassed budgets for various city departments and assets, including the Wykoff Community Hall, which has an end-of-year budget of $1,500, according to Schmidt, who noted that there had been complaints from renters about a hump in the wooden floor that could cause people to trip. 

Williams stated, “It’s been redone and sanded, we’ve put boards down, we’ve fixed it several times.  I wonder about the structure underneath.”   

The consent agenda included approving the minutes of prior meetings, payment of bills, and of the treasurer’s report — which encompassed the League of Minnesota Cities’ audit adjustment.