Highland gets new chief and dues system

Saturday, March 24, 2012
Kal Dienst (pictured with folder), presents ideas for the new fire dues system to the Highland City Council on March 13. Dienst was also appointed Highland Fire Chief and will work alongside Russell Truitt (pictured far left in blue), to better the department. Photo/Tammy Curtis

A new fire chief, establishment of a fire dues system and progress on the city park were discussed at the March 13 meeting of the Highland City Council.

Alderwoman Mary Jo Clark, who serves on the Parks committee, updated council on the progress of the new park that is located on Lake Mirandy.

Clark said a light pole is due to be installed and playground equipment will be delivered during the upcoming week. She also said contractors were to begin pouring the concrete for the basketball court.

Questions about the city's liability in the event of an accident were raised, and city attorney Jon Abele reassured the city there was no liability for injury. He said the park will be a "play at your own risk" location.

The city park is separate from a Game and Fish grant the city received to improve the dock and parking near the lake. Game and Fish recently did a fish count at the lake to determine the need for brush cover and additional habitats for fish, in order for them to multiply after the lake is stocked.

Another topic of discussion was the proposed implementation of a fire dues system, to help cover the growing expenses for the fire department as it covers fires out of the city limits.

Kal Dienst said he has researched various methods, and suggested the city charge a $50 fee per improved residential property and $100 per commercial property. He stressed that this is only for those who live outside the city limits but within the fire district, and only on improved property.

The council passed a resolution to adopt the fire dues schedule and begin collecting the dues. Dienst explained the city can charge residents if the department comes to a fire and the residents have not paid their dues.

In addition, those who do not pay the fee will not qualify for the reduction on their insurance cost.

Many surrounding areas have already adopted the fees. Residents in portions of southern Sharp County pay their fire dues on their personal property taxes.

Dienst explained the Highland system is different. Patrons who live in the fire district outside of the city limits will be billed for the service.

After the resignation of former fire chief Johnny Rickman last winter, Kal Dienst has been serving as interim fire chief.

Council reviewed 11 applications for the position, and interviewed three potential candidates.

After a lengthly executive session, Smith explained the decision was hard to arrive at, but council chose Dienst as the city's new fire chief.

Dienst and Russell Truitt were the two who were considered.

Both men have been working together well and said they had decided who ever got the job, they would still continue their working relationship.

Dienst took over the helm of the department March 19.

Highland City council meets the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. The public is always welcome at these meetings.

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