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Minn. voters to decide funding for new fire station, better response times

St. Cloud voters will determine if a new fire station will be built in an area experiencing new houses, apartments and schools


St. Cloud fire apparatus.

St. Cloud Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 464/Facebook

By Jenny Berg
Star Tribune

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Voters here could see a question on the ballot this fall asking them to approve a tax increase for a new fire station on the city’s south side.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis on Tuesday announced plans for a referendum during his 19th annual State of the City address.

“Our firefighters go to fires, natural disasters, medical calls, dangerous rescues,” he said to a crowd of a few hundred people gathered at City Hall. “They need a little help in that response — they need another fire station.”

The city has five fire stations, one of which is at the airport and is only used to support airport operations.

St. Cloud Fire Chief Matt Love said Tuesday the city is working with a firm to design a new station and training facility on the south side of the city near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 15 and 33rd Street S — an area that’s seen recent growth with the new Tech High School, charter schools and growing neighborhoods of houses and apartments.

Once costs are finalized, city leaders will ask the City Council to approve adding the question to the ballot this fall. It would likely be similar to a public safety referendum in 2006 that asked voters to allow the city to rebuild a fire station on the west side by the Municipal Athletic Complex and build a new fire station on the south side just north of I-94. The question passed with 57% voting yes to the tax increase.

The new station would not only improve response times to the south side of the city, it would improve response times across the entire city, Love said.

A 2020 study of the city’s fire department showed its response time exceeds nationally recommended standards for fires, emergency medical calls and other calls. The national benchmark is about six minutes, whereas St. Cloud’s average response time to a fire was 10 minutes, the study showed.

“Response time is important,” Kleis said. “It’s been more than 15 years since we’ve asked you, the voters, to build a couple fire stations. We’re going to ask you again this fall. It’s necessary not only to save your life — your friends’ and family’s lives — and property.”

Kleis also announced Tuesday the city is launching a residential cooking oil recycling program, where residents can drop of used food-grade cooking oil and grease at four sites in the city. Next year, the city will start accepting food scraps, as well. The city’s wastewater treatment facility will turn the oils and scraps into renewable biogas, which is then used to power the facility.

This summer, the city will launch a new round of the Healthy Neighborhood Partnership Program in partnership with the Initiative Foundation. The program helps residents determine their neighborhood’s unique assets, needs and goals.

The city first sponsored the program in 2007 with a focus on the city’s older core neighborhoods, which was the impetus behind the creation of the nonprofit St. Cloud Neighborhood Coalition. This summer’s program will focus on all neighborhoods, Kleis said.

Kleis also highlighted his engagement efforts since taking office in 2005, including 100 dinners with residents at his home, 980 town halls — including his recent 24-hour town hall — 1,000 video messages posted online and 2,000 appearances on local radio shows. He hasn’t yet said if he plans to run for re-election this fall.

Kleis also thanked the 121 people who volunteer to serve on the city’s 21 boards and commissions, as well as others who work in public service or volunteer to make the community a better place, many of whom were in attendance Tuesday.

“The state of the city,” he said, “is the sum of all of you.”

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