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Emergency services in place for area annexed to Dickinson

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Emergency services in place for area annexed to Dickinson
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Amid a pending lawsuit against Dickinson, protection services for an area north of town recently annexed into city limits began much sooner than anticipated.

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About 325 acres north of Dickinson was approved for annexation into city limits in October and since then concerns about who will provide emergency services such as police and fire protection have loomed.

More than a dozen businesses and landowners in the annexed area filed legal action against the city Jan. 5, requesting temporary injunctive relief until a judge can determine whether or not the process was done according to the law.

City Public Information Officer Bill Fahlsing said in October the annexation would become official in February, at which time police and fire response would begin immediately and Dickinson Police Department Chief Chuck Rummel said police protection would take effect today.

However, the services took effect Jan. 13, a day after the annexation was officially recorded at the Stark County Recorder's Office.

Dickinson Rural Fire Department Chief Curt Lefor said the group has a mutual aid agreement with the city's fire department, the same as it always had.

Since the area is now part of city limits, the Dickinson Rural Fire Department is losing about $4,400 in funding, according to a previous Press article.

Officials said in November the city was attempting to provide temporary relief to rural fire's lost funding.

Kessel said the city was working with the Rural Fire Department to "engage them in an automatic aid agreement" which would return dollar for dollar what the department would be losing until the city has infrastructure that would support a full city response.

"As of right now we don't have nothing signed for that end of it -- no we do not," Lefor said. "We had sat down and had some discussion on it a while back. At this present time there is no signed paperwork for it though."

"As far as the dollars involved, I don't know how the city and the rural are going to work that out," Dickinson Fire Department Chief Bob Sivak said.

"Initially we had tried to attach that dollar amount to this automatic aid agreement and we recognize the automatic aid agreement was a flawed document. It wasn't right. It didn't fit how we wanted things to work."

Sivak said a mutual aid agreement between rural and city fire services has existed for many years, but in fairness to the Rural Fire Department, the city's fire department "can't abuse that relationship."

Lefor said the Rural Fire Department will respond to issues in the annexed area only if the city's fire department requests mutual aid.

If a fire were to break out in the annexed area, which is not equipped with fire hydrants, water shuttle operations would be employed, Sivak said.

"Depending on the incident, that's where our mutual aid situation with the Dickinson Rural would become very important because they carry more water than we do and they have a tanker," Sivak said.

Work pattern changes have not needed to be made due to the additional land coverage, Sivak said.

"Not necessarily just driven by this annexation, but driven by the growth of the community as a whole, we hope to add a firefighter's position this summer," Sivak said.

Dickinson Police Department Capt. Dustin Dassinger said the department took over law enforcement duties Jan. 13, at the direction of the city.

Dassinger said no additional staff was added due to the annexation.

"We have changed up as far as we have a lot more territory to cover up there, so the guys have to change their patrol procedure a little bit," Dassinger said.

But, there are concerns with what entity is providing services to the annexed businesses and some landowners feel they have been left in the dark.

Tom Kirchen, area manager and vice president of Northern Improvement Co. in north Dickinson, one of the annexed businesses, said if the city did take over services, the business was never notified.

"The city does not have the equipment to support that area," Kirchen said.

It is unclear who will be responsible for providing services if a judge decides to approve a request for temporary injunctive relief.

It is also unclear why the annexation and protection services took effect earlier than advised.

"The city of Dickinson has now entered into a lawsuit and will not provide additional comments on the annexation until the completion of the lawsuit," Fahlsing said.

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