The Upsala City Council agreed to purchase 14 sets of turnout gear not to exceed $48,000 at the its regular meeting, Monday.

The gear was in desperate need by the Upsala Fire Department as at least that many were several years out of compliance, according to Fire Chief Jay Baggenstoss.

“We tried with FEMA for three years to get a grant, and for whatever reason didn’t get it,” Baggenstoss said. “All you can do is throw your hat in the ring.”

Baggenstoss said that the gear is specifically fit for firefighters and that the gear chosen in a proposal given to the Council is “middle of the road gear.”

“If you are going on 450 calls a year, you’d probably want the high-end gear, but this middle of the road gear is sufficient,” Baggenstoss said.

The Council discussed whether to try and space the purchases out to two sets per year, but eventually decided that the need was too great right now.

“In an ideal world, we would be buying two sets every year, because after 10 years we could still be buying two sets and everyone would still be compliant,” said City Clerk Michelle Stevens. “We’re not in that ideal world right now. We kicked the kick can too far down the road, but we could create that.”

Baggenstoss said that the Fire Board would be willing to contribute whatever it can to offset the cost to the city and townships that it serves.

“The bottom line is that we have to get this done,” Baggenstoss said. “It is overdue, and we’re willing to do what we have to in order to get this done.”

The next question for the Council was when to order this equipment.

Baggenstoss said that typically, in the past, it takes two to three months for the firefighters to be measured and the equipment to be delivered.

“I don’t think it is unreasonable to do it right away, because they’ve had to get by not having to get it for a long time,” said Council Member Crystal Benson. “It has to happen.”

Fellow Council Member Lana Bartells agreed.

“I think that if we wait a month, that could set us back two months,” Bartells said.

“I think it could be delayed, because everything is right now,” said Council Member Mitch Lange.

He asked if Baggenstoss believes that it will be delayed.

“That is the fear,” Baggenstoss said. “There is probably a lot of people that are ordering right now, and I hope it’s not the case, but I do anticipate it being longer.”

“We could be looking at the summer before we get the gear, but I hope not,” Baggenstoss said.

With that in mind, Mayor Rollie Johnson questioned: “Do we need to move ahead now and purchase them, or do we wait until after the fire board meeting? It is for the safety of our fire fighters.”

With a delay concern looming, the Council decided to forge ahead now, approving the decision 5-0 and told Baggenstoss to go ahead and order as soon as he can.

Upsala City Council Briefs

In other business, Monday, the Upsala City Council:

• Approved the by-laws changes the First Response Team;

• Approved the appointments and designations of city positions for 2021, including a new $125 stipend for the First Response Team vice president;

• Noted that a Heritage Days meeting is set for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 16;

• Approved the 2021 fee schedule with changes to say per hour for election judges and to correct the spelling mistake on the cemetery plots to “three” years;

• Adopted a resolution to send a letter to the members of the State Legislature about the rising cost of water and wastewater in rural communities;

• Set the Local Board of Appeals and Equalization meeting for 11 a.m., Wednesday, April 21; and

• Congratulated the 2020 Holiday Lights Contest winners: Residential, first place, Rodney Hayes, second place, Brady Burggraff, third place, Scott Taylor; and businesses, first place, Sytek, second place Farm Store and third place, Carrie’s Place.

The next meeting of the Upsala City Council will be at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 1, at City Hall.

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