Fire Department key for business needsPublished 2:40pm Saturday, September 1, 2012
On Aug. 27, I spoke to the Albert Lea City Council as they were taking public comments on Fire Department options. I am not a public speaker and believe I write better than I talk. As to what I said, I know it wasn’t polished or practiced, but it came from the heart.considerably
I respect the mayor, the city manager, and each of the councilors in the efforts they are making to attempt to control cost and to slow the increase in tax burdens each of us has seen over the years.
That being said, I wanted to state that in observing the debate over should there be staffing reductions at the Fire Department I was aware that the focus lacked consideration of what effect a staffing reduction could have on economic development. I am not an economic developer, but I have run a family business and do have some awareness of what went on when my father was attempting to start up operations in Albert Lea 50 years ago. Financing the project wasn’t easy. At the time we needed a sizable loan to construct what was termed a single-use building. Although my family had been in the business for years, lenders look on this as a very risky venture, and my father was becoming frustrated to the point of cutting his losses and walking away from the project.
It was at this point that Charlie Meyers and a group of city leaders stepped up determined not to let that happen. Charlie joined my father in talks with the lenders; he told them about the city of Albert Lea, and convinced them to come and take a look at the community. The lenders did come to look about, and they reported on a city with well-kept residences, good city streets, and excellent city services. Community pride was on display and the lenders were encouraged by it. In the report that went forward recommending the loan, the first item listed favoring the loan was a fully staffed professional Fire Department. The report went on to state that city leaders were in support of the development. In essence, the community did the job we were having great difficulty getting done.
This happened in 1961, after the community had been through other very tough times. Now one might say that this doesn’t have anything to do with staffing of the Fire Department in these economic times. I say that it has everything to do with today and the future we wish for. As we go forward, it will be how we present ourselves, how we maintain our community infrastructure that will help determine what we will be in the time to come. I see the Fire Department to be a key to that future as it was in our past. Good fire protection and inspection is as important to our community’s preservation as it will be to the future development we need. I am not asking our city leaders to ignore budgetary concerns, but to include in those considerations a realistic eye on the future many of us claim to want.
Thomas B. Newell