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... More fee hikes may come

Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden suggested several new fees he thought the council should consider during a discussion of the 2010 license and fee schedule at the December council meeting.

Wolden suggested the city look into charging residents for fire calls based on their insurance policies.

"I know it's one of those things I've verbally fought against for many years," Wolden said, "But the more I talk to mayors and managers from around the state, fire departments are charging residents for fire calls based on what's in insurance policies."

He wonders if maybe it's time to take another look at that, he said. His last homeowners insurance policy specifically excluded any fire run fees for policy holders who live in a municipality that provides a fire department.

Wolden said he would even be so bold as to move for it with an exemption for homeowners whose policies do not cover the cost of a fire call.

"If it excludes it for some reason, I certainly wouldn't want it coming out of homeowners' pockets," he said. "They're already being taxed."

Councilwoman Jeanette Baymler was concerned about raised insurance premiums for homeowners if there was a fee charged.

"I just want you to be aware that people's insurance will go up," she said.

Swenson said it was premature to consider adding a fee that night. There is a lot to consider in regard to how the revenue would be applied to the township fire contracts, he said. Township residents already pay for fire calls and that revenue goes back into the contract as part of a formula.

Another factor to consider is that some of the city's toughest bills to collect are when claims come in higher than what the insurance company pays, Swenson said.

"You may notice we take more of those to small claims court than almost anything else," he said. "People just have a hard time paying that difference."

Wolden also suggested the city start thinking about charging for what he termed "nuisance calls" for the police department. For example, the city could send a bill for the third time an officer has to visit the same residence.

The council moved the discussion onto fees for Sunnybrook Campground. Wolden had another idea for a new fee based on a suggestion from the campground manager. He asked if the city council had thought about vacating the campground office and turning it into another Cozy Cabin and setting a rate per night stay.

"The manager of the campground this summer strongly recommended that we turn it into a cabin because they can operate out of their camper," Wolden said. "It's another revenue source for us."

People would gladly pay for an air-conditioned place to stay, he said.

Councilman Toby Pierce asked if the Cozy Cabin was rented out quite a bit.

Shannon Grangruth, billing clerk and the city administrator's assistant, estimated it was used about 10 to 20 nights a year.

Pierce commented that the city already has the expense of maintaining the office building no matter what.

Wolden suggested Public Works Director Ron Bucholz look into it and come back to the council closer to spring. He didn't want to put him on the spot that night, he said.

Bucholz humorously suggested a way to market the city's possible new cabin.

"It's got two little rooms downstairs and one upstairs," he said. "So I suppose we could call it a three-bedroom chalet."