East Bethel Fire Chief Mark DuCharme reported to the East Bethel City Council Jan. 27 that his department responded to 685 calls in 2019, an 8.5% increase from 2018 in which the department responded to 633 calls.

According to DuCharme, 2019 was a record call year. The department responded to 633 calls in 2018 and 2017, 552 calls in 2016, and 548 calls in 2015.

Only 50 of the 685 calls last year were fire calls. The department responded to more vehicle accidents (62) than actual fire calls. By far the greatest reason an East Bethel volunteer paid-on-call firefighter was called to duty was for a medical assist (459).

DuCharme said an average of 5.85 firefighters responded per call. He would like to see a couple more people respond and said he is worried about people getting worn out by the large volume of calls.

“You’re going to get to a point where you burn people out,” DuCharme said. “We answer a lot of calls during the day.”

While DuCharme is hoping that the average number of firefighters responding per call will trend upward, he is pleased with the average response time of 8 minutes, 42 seconds. After the 911 dispatcher reports the incident, the volunteer firefighters need time to drive from home or work to the station, change into their gear, and get to the scene of the incident.

Other business

In other business, the council amended the city’s tobacco ordinance to comply with President Donald Trump’s direction in December 2019 to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The council also formally requested via resolution that the Minnesota Department of Transportation advance approximately $1.89 million so the city can construct a service road on the east side of Highway 65 from 187th Lane to Viking Boulevard.

According to City Administrator Jack Davis, the funds are needed to pay for the initial construction phase. The city was notified that it would receive $3.2 million from MnDOT through a Highway Safety Improvement Program grant, but that funding will not be dispersed by the time the city begins the project.

The council also approved a list of smaller-scale road maintenance projects as part of its joint powers bidding agreement with multiple cities. The agreement has been in place since 2005 and also involves the cities of Coon Rapids, Andover, Anoka, Brooklyn Center, Columbia Heights, Fridley, Ham Lake and Mahtomedi. Coon Rapids takes the lead in drafting the specifications and soliciting the bids. Each city submits a list of projects and may accept or reject a bid.

The 2020 East Bethel project list includes chip sealing 76,000 square feet of neighborhood streets in the Tri Oak Circle, Oakwood Meadows and Northern Boundaries subdivisions. Projects throughout the city include 150,000 linear feet of pavement markings and 100,000 linear feet of crack sealing.

East Bethel estimates the three projects will cost approximately $200,000.

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