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Commissioners of four counties meet to formalize Kenmare Rural Fire District

After years of operation, the Kenmare Rural Fire District is officially the Kenmare Rural Fire District.

12/23/09 (Wed)


After years of operation, the Kenmare Rural Fire District is officially the Kenmare Rural Fire District.


The fact that the fire district had never been established as a public entity was discovered earlier this year, when members of the rural fire district talked with Ward County Auditor Devra Smestad about instituting a mill levy to generate funds.


As of December 16th, the Kenmare Rural Fire District is in existence.


“It was a district, but it wasn’t a legalized district,” said Bruce Ankenbauer, acting president of the Kenmare Rural Fire District.


He explained the process started when residents in each of the 14 townships, spread across Ward, Renville, Burke and Mountrail counties, signed a petition in favor of the fire district’s creation. “Every township had to get the signatures of at least 60 percent of its population,” he said. “I’m sure we had at least 90 percent. The ones we didn’t get weren’t home.”


After the petitions were completed, commissioners from the four counties held a meeting in Kenmare on December 16th to hear public input on the matter. “They had to decide if there was enough support to form the rural fire protection district,” said Chuck Leet, secretary/treasurer of the Kenmare Fire Department. “The commissioners went ahead with a motion to proceed with forming the district, and that was approved.”


According to state law, the rural fire district must now hold an organizational meeting and elect a governing board. That meeting has been scheduled for January 13th at the Kenmare Memorial Hall.


A new board for the rural fire district will be named at the meeting. Currently, each of the 14 townships in the district has one representative on the board. “They’re telling us we have to have at least seven members on the board,” Ankenbauer said. “We’ll probably leave it at 14 if we can. We’re hoping to have at least one [representative] from each county, and not more than two from each township.”


Ankenbauer said that once the board is in place and the fire district receives final approval, the Kenmare Rural Fire District is eligible to apply for various types of grants and other funding. The district can also levy up to five mills for fire protection.


“That’s why we had to make sure we were organized,” he said.


The rural fire district has an agreement with the Kenmare Fire Department to pay for half of the $180,000 loan taken out to pay for the construction of the new fire hall. According to Leet, the district pledged $60,000 toward the new fire hall, and will assume half the costs for maintenance and utilities in the building after construction is finished.


“This is going to help us,” said Ankenbauer. “Before, each township had to pay dues.”


Money raised for the district through the mill levy will also be spent for maintenance of the Kenmare Rural Fire District equipment and the purchase of new vehicles as needed.


“We’ve always had one mill set aside for a fund to purchase new trucks,” said Ankenbauer. “Right now, our trucks are both pretty good, but we could use a tanker truck to haul water to the major fires. We’ve never had one, and we’ve been looking.”


Although land valuations vary throughout the fire district, Ankenbauer said one mill generates about $4000 across the entire district, which consists of an estimated 485 quarters. “I don’t think it’s going to average more than four or five dollars a quarter,” he said. “That’s pretty cheap protection.”


The mill levy would go into effect for the 2011 tax year. “For a while, we’d have to operate on the funds we have right now,” said Ankenbauer. “We’re probably one of the only districts around that doesn’t have an organized district and a mill levy.”


The rural fire district will exclude the city of Kenmare, which levies its own five mills, or about $5,000 a year, for fire protection. Leet said the city fire department and the rural fire district enjoy a good working relationship.


Both Leet and Ankenbauer were satisfied with the commissioners’ approval of the new district. “All the county commissioners from all four counties were in favor that we get this done,” Ankenbauer said. “The people living in the townships have all basically approved it.”


The public is invited to attend the organizational meeting of the Kenmare Rural Fire District on January 13, 2010, at the Kenmare Memorial Hall, beginning at 7 pm.