3 Groups File Lawsuit to Put Lino Lakes Fire Dept. Issue on Ballot

Updated: 08/18/2014 6:34 PM
Created: 08/18/2014 7:12 AM
By: Kate Renner

There's a fire department fight going in Lino Lakes. The city council wants the community to have its own department, but a group of people living there wants to vote on it.

On Monday, they filed a lawsuit to make sure they get a say in the matter.

A petition went around the city of Lino Lakes gathering nearly 700 signatures from people who want to vote on whether Lino Lakes should split off from the Centennial Fire District, which includes Circle Pines and Centerville. That's enough signatures to get it on November's ballot, but the Lino Lakes City Council voted to reject the petition. Now three advocacy groups are suing the city.

Lino Lakes resident Jennifer Wenzel says he is tired of seeing a fight over the fire department.

"It's more of a power struggle for our leaders of our city, than what is in the best interests of Lino Lakes," said Jennifer Wenzel, a Lino Lakes resident.

Wenzel is one of nearly 700 residents who signed a petition asking to vote if Lino Lakes should run their own department or stay a part of Centennial Fire District.

"We're participating in a carpool with three other individuals, and we're paying for 70 percent of the gas and we have one-third of the say as to where we're going to go as a carpool," said John Swenson, Lino Lakes Public Safety Director.

Lino Lakes pays for 70 percent of the Centennial fire costs because it has 21,000 residents. Lino Lakes City Council and the public safety director want to build a fire station in the southern part of the city, take over one of Centennial's stations and hire a new staff.

"Right now they're going to have all new people, all new firefighters, all new staff, that's a dangerous thing, we believe," said Pete Johnson, Centennial Fire District firefighter.

Response time is of utmost importance, but each side says they're option will be safest.

"There's a group of citizens, a large group, that's going to suffer in terms of response time," Johnson said.

"Quite frankly they don't know what our response time levels will be because we're in the process of making those decisions," Swenson said those decisions won't affect residents until their time of need.

An Anoka County judge will rule on this lawsuit either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.

Thursday is the deadline for the petition to be turned into the Secretary of State's office in order to get this issue on November's ballot.

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