Fire chief, Harris City Council talk about communication

Joe Carlson, fire chief of the Harris Volunteer Fire Department, appeared before the Harris City Council because he said he feels there is a rift growing between the Fire Department and the council caused by a lack of communication.
He said he had sent three emails to the mayor and has not had a response to any of them. Mayor Diane Miller said the city clerk, Joanne Dargay, had been instructed to respond to one of the emails.
Carlson’s concern is that the city is in the process of changing the operations of the Fire Department and wants the department to be involved.
Miller indicated the council is currently trying to develop the process on how the council will proceed with the revisions to the Fire Department and the process has not begun.
The council is discussing how it will proceed with the League of Minnesota Cities, which carries the liability insurance for the city, and the city attorney. Once those meetings are completed and the actual changes are being discussed, then the Fire Department will be invited to the meetings.
Carlson asked to be called when the meetings are being scheduled. Miller said, as they have discussed before, there is a process to being notified about all city meetings. There is a cost and once that is paid, the clerk will put the requester on the list to be notified. Carlson questioned why he, as the head of the department being discussed, would not be contacted. Miller said that when the meetings are about the Fire Department, Carlson will be contacted, but the first are organizational meetings setting up the process.
Miller also said all of the meetings that are being held are public meetings and open to anyone who wishes to attend. Dargay said the meetings are posted three days before they are held on the bulletin board outside City Hall, which meets the requirements of announcing a meeting that is not a regularly scheduled meeting.
A member of the Fire Department asked from floor if would they be told a meeting was scheduled if a call was made to the clerk. Dargay assured the firefighter that information would be shared; if the meeting was scheduled on a Thursday, the information would be available on Monday.
Councilman Dan Scully expressed the opinion that because the council is attempting change how the Fire Department is being run to make it better, the council members are all now on the “hot seat.” Until the council is ready to receive input on the department, it is having meetings with the League of Minnesota Cities and the city attorney because the council is trying to get its “ducks in a row.” Once the city is ready for input on how the department can be changed for the better, Carlson’s attendance will be requested at the meetings.
The council was asked if the Fire Department was meeting expectations. Miller responded that at that time she did not know — the department is not only not following its standard operating procedures but sometimes doesn’t even know what the procedures are. That was the reason for proposed change.
Firefighter Henry Gregoire was in attendance and asked about equipment the department needed. He said the department needs gloves for the firefighters and that the department had not been able to get any. A rather heated discussion followed between Gregoire and Scully.
Scully asked Gregoire when a request had been made for the gloves. He noted the fire chief usually has requests for equipment and other items that is presented to the council. Scully said he did not remember any requests for any gloves.
Scully asked if this was because Carlson had not made the request, or perhaps it was because no one had informed the chief that gloves were needed. Gregoire then said that a request would be developed, that a decision would be made what type and quality of gloves the department needed and bids would be obtained. The request will be made at the next meeting. Scully then asked Gregoire why he had been railing on the council for not providing gloves to the department when the department hasn’t even decided yet what gloves it needs.

In other news
•Chisago County Sheriff Duncan was in attendance to review the crime report for 2016. Duncan turned over the presentation to crime analyst Michelle Jacobson, who had visuals to provide the information.
Year-to-date crimes have been down in the county about 21 percent. There have been no homicides. Assaults were also down from last year, as were property crimes. Thefts were similar to last year. There were two arsons, one of which has been solved. Theft, including auto theft, and burglaries are most of the crimes.
Jacobson stressed that because some numbers are low, any minimal change affects the percentages drastically. Property crimes were up in 2016, but only a small number. In 2015 there was one; in 2016 there were six. There were no arson cases last year and no auto theft. Harris only made up 5 percent of all calls for service in the county in 2016.
Jacobson said a website,, provides information on neighborhoods, such as what types of crime there is and where they occurred.
•Duncan said a program for people who are interested in law enforcement is available to the public through the Chisago County Citizens Academy. This is a 10-week course that allows attendees to see what it is like to be a deputy. They will learn how the SWAT team functions and what it is like to be an investigator. The academy is usually held in September. The sheriff urged the residents to apply.
•The council also considered the proposed firearms ordinance in the city. A request had been made to repeal the ordinance. The discharge of firearms is regulated by the state in many different forms, both by regular statute and also by Department of Natural Resources statutes. Many of the clauses in the city firearms ordinance were similar to the state ordinances except that the penalties are harsher in the state ordinances.
Duncan spoke up and said that if the department is responding to a call dealing with firearms, the state ordinance will be enforced. The only city ordinance not covered by the state is when a city restricts the discharge of any firearm anywhere in the city limits. Harris does not have that clause in its ordinance. Duncan requested that the city follow through on the request to repeal the ordinance, as his deputies will be enforcing the state ordinances.
The council decided to repeal the city’s firearms ordinance based on the information that everything in the city firearms ordinance is already covered in the state ordinance.

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