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It's Official: Kenmare Rural Fire District now exists

The Kenmare Rural Fire Protection District now officially exists, according to the State of North Dakota.

2/03/10 (Wed)

Getting on with business . . . WIth the official organization of the Kenmare
Rural Fire Protection District, already in operation for decades, newly-elected
vice-president Lowell Nelson, left, and president Bruce Ankenbauer, center,
review paperwork required by the state of North Dakota with Ward County
Auditor Devra Smestad. The rural fire district, which covers 14 townships, was
established January 13th in Kenmare during a special committee meeting
of commissioners from Ward, Renville, Mountrail and Burke counties.

By Caroline Downs
The Kenmare Rural Fire Protection District now officially exists, according to the State of North Dakota.
The organization has operated for decades, but a question sent to Ward County Auditor Devra Smestad last summer about levying mills for fire protection led to the discovery that the rural fire district had never been officially organized. No documentation of such a district could be found.
Action taken by seven commissioners representing Ward, Burke, Renville and Mountrail counties rectified the situation during a special meeting held January 13th. That temporary committee met at the Kenmare Memorial Hall, with about 20 property owners from the rural fire district present, and approved a motion for the organization of the Kenmare Rural Fire Protection District.
“I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of change from how you’ve been operating,” Smestad said. “And now you’ll see some taxing authority.”
Bruce Ankenbauer was nominated by the landowners, who served on the “old” Kenmare Rural Fire District board, as the temporary president of the district. He held that position for about five minutes until he was voted in as the official president.
Lowell Nelson was elected vice-president, and Aimee Wheeling’s nomination as secretary/treasurer, to replace Shelley Wittman, was approved.
The group also had to determine the composition of a board of directors for the district. State statute, as read by Smestad, required board members to own property and live in the district. Districts composed of more than seven townships could elect at least seven members to the board but no more than two members from any one township.
Ankenbauer assumed interest in the rural fire district would remain high from the townships. “I don’t think you’ll find any township that doesn’t want a say in [the business of the district],” he said.
A motion by Otto Folkers to elect the same representative from each township until the townships hold their annual meetings in March was approved. That board will have to establish a rotation for membership, with some members elected to one-year terms and others to two-year terms.
The last act of the special meeting named the date for the rural fire district’s annual meeting as the fourth Monday of March each year, following the township annual meetings.
Current board members serving in the Kenmare Rural Fire District from Burke County include Ankenbauer from Kandiyohi Township, Nelson from Roseland Township and Gene Duerre from Lakeview Township.
Board members from Mountrail County are Mervin Gustavson of Lowland Township, George Willgrubs of Sidonia Township and Miles Gustavson of Crowfoot Township.
Renville County board members are Curtis Peterson of Fairbanks Township and Dave O’Neill of Rockford Township.
Board members living in Ward County include David Peterson of Sauk Prairie Township, Greg Christianson of Spencer Township, Otto Folkers of Kenmare Township, Greg Ankenbauer of Elmdale Township, Tom Herman of Denmark Township and Tom Pullen of Baden Township.
Five landowners in Stafford Township, Renville County, also own quarters considered to be included in the Kenmare Rural Fire Protection District.
Nick Thelen of the Kenmare Volunteer Fire Department serves as Rural Truck Captain.
First meeting
for new organization
Once the rural fire district completed the business of establishing the rural district, Ankenbauer conducted the group’s regular quarterly meeting. The district has $12,443.32 in its checking account and $56,715.49 in CDs.
The district will share in paying the utilities and maintenance of the new fire hall in Kenmare, with the district’s portion still to be determined. The district will also contribute toward payments of the building project.
Ankenbauer explained the new Kenmare Rural Fire District will levy mills for fire protection, but a request to do so cannot be made until June and would not go into effect until 2011. “That means the townships will pay what they’ve been paying for one more year,” he said. “We now have to set up a budget and submit that to Ward County, and we have to decide how much of a mill levy we have to put on to pay expenses.”
Currently, the townships pay 1.5 mills each for fire protection. Those dues will be paid in 2010, but beginning with the 2011 tax year, the district will levy mills for fire protection on all landowners within the district.
“Then it will be paid with your taxes and sent to the counties,” said Ankenbauer, “and the counties will pay the fire district.”
According to North Dakota Century Code, a rural fire district may levy up to five mills, but Ankenbauer noted the Kenmare Rural District would have to discuss costs for the new fire hall with the Kenmare Fire Department. “We know one mill will be for a truck,” he said, which has been a long-standing practice of the district. “Then, we’ll have to decide how many more mills are needed for expenses.”
Smooth transition, bills to pay
Ankenbauer has served on the board for the “old” Kenmare Rural Fire District for longer than he can remember, and assumed the president’s role from the late Charlie Krueger. He was pleased to see the smooth transition to the “official” Kenmare Rural Fire District and he credited Smestad for her assistance as county auditor.
He also emphasized the need for rural fire district’s contribution to the Kenmare Fire Department and the increased number of mills that will be levied. “One and a half mills aren’t going to pay our bills any more,” he said. “Five mills is really not all that much when you think about having your property protected for fire.”
He referred to the positive working relationship the rural district has with Kenmare’s fire department and said the two organizations would review utility costs and maintenance expenses for the new fire hall once the department was moved in and using the building. At that point, the rural district can create its own budget and determine the number of mills necessary for operation.
Kenmare Fire Department
stays busy on rural calls
The annual report by the Kenmare Volunteer Fire Department showed that 20 of the department’s 25 fire calls for 2009 occurred in the rural fire district.
The report listed 10 grass fires and three farm implement fires. Six vehicle accidents and one vehicle fire to which the department responded also occurred in the rural district. The department recorded 831 man hours spent on fire calls.