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City council hears fire chief report, concern

City council hears fire chief report, concern

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During their regular Monday night meeting, the Chadron City Council heard from Fire Chief Branden Martens.

During his report, Martens noted the department includes city fire, rural and emergency medical services, so there is a multitude of training hours in keeping all three aspects moving forward. The department has 44 spots on its 50-member board filled, and averages about 450 calls per year.

Last year the department had 5,376 man hours and 3,090 training hours. Already this year, it has 1,231 man hours and 705 training. “Those are big numbers for us,” Martens said of the 2020 numbers, “because we are a volunteer department. Our call volumes keep going up and our training hours keep going up.”

Martens called attention to an upcoming purchase of a ladder truck to replace the current one which is 20 years old. The truck had a few break downs last year, including a bad throttle switch, and valves and a fuel injection pump needing replacement. The cost of a new ladder truck would be $800,000 to $1 million. The fire chief made the council aware of the truck now, as it could be three years before the process of purchase would be complete. This would allow 18 months for council to determine what specs it wants of the new truck, and another 18 to seek bids.

Martens also pointed out there are 18 three-story commercial three-story buildings in Chadron, not counting downtown or the college, so the ladder truck is an essential piece of equipment.

Also during the meeting, council heard from Stan Little, Chairman and CEO of Southern Airways, and Mark Cestari, Chief Commercial Officer of the airline. Southern is the airline council recommended for the new Chadron Essential Air Service provider. That recommendation has been forward on to the Department of Transportation.

Little expressed his appreciation to council for their endorsement, and that he enjoyed touring the city Monday. “We are very much interested in being a part of this community,” he said, “and making sure we establish ties that will make your air service successful for the long haul.” He further believes that, in meeting with people, they have taken the first steps to bringing people back to the airport who have not been there for years.

Little understands the city has not had reliable service for many years, from multiple airlines, which comes back to influence people into thinking the airport is bad. It is his goal to restore people’s faith in the airport. He’s hopeful the DOT will approve Southern as the air service provider by April 1, which would allow the airline to begin service on June 1.

Among the additional highlights to which Little and Cestari spoke are being able to buy tickets 330 days in advance, connectivity to Alaska Airlines, United and American, cargo pods to alleviate worry over bag size and setting up a car rental service at the Chadron airport. They also noted that flights typically have one or two empty seats, and tickets for those seats could be donated to organizations as auction or raffle items at fundraisers.

Also in regard to the airport, during their action agenda council approved Olsson Associates to perform future engineering consulting services for future airfield development projects at the airport. The City is required to go through the selection process for engineering services at the airport every five years.

Janet Johnson said four proposals came in from providers for services, and the review committee recommended Olsson. Along with Johnson, the committee includes city council members Miles Bannan and Keith Crofutt, Milo Rust and Scott Schremmer.

Johnson explained the recommendation was made because Olsson has been the engineer for 15 years, and in that time they have developed a good working relationship.

Curtis Christianson with Olsson spoke to council, expressing appreciation for their considering the firm for a contract renewal. Though he is from Lincoln, Christianson said he enjoys coming out to work at the Chadron airport.

In other action, council approved a special designated license for Niobrara Valley Vineyard, for the upcoming Harvest Moon Fall Festival on Oct. 2.

Also approved was a lien of $128.39 on the property at 635 Morehead Street.

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