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Judge Rules Lino Lakes' Split from Fire Dept. 'Administrative Decision'

Updated: 08/22/2014 2:52 PM
Created: 08/22/2014 2:08 PM KSTP.com
By: Megan Stewart

A judge has dismissed a petition from Lino Lakes residents arguing for their right to vote on a fire department of their own Friday, saying it was an administrative decision.

In January, the Lino Lakes City Council unanimously voted to split from the Centennial Fire District, which is comprised of Lino Lakes, Centerville and Circle Pines. They will open their own city fire department beginning in January 2016.

The three cities have been sharing fire services for 28 years.

John Swenson, Lino Lakes' Public Safety Director, says going at it alone will ensure a model for the long-term growth of the city, promising continued quality service. He says after startup costs, annual fire department operations will not cost the city any more than it currently pays for fire coverage from Centennial.

However, firefighters disagree. They have been mailing flyers to city residents arguing that a split from the Centennial Fire District will cost city taxpayers more money, lead to slower response times and hurt recruiting.

A group wanting a public vote on the issue collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot, but the council rejected that so the group sued.

Initially, the decision was expected to be issued Thursday. There was a hearing Thursday morning, and the judge said the final decision would be made the next day.

The judge ultimately ruled the proposed ordinance was an administrative decision, not a legislative act:

Lino Lakes voters do have the ability to affect their membership in the Centennial Fire District, but that ability lies in their capacity to elect the members of the city council, not by assuming the day-to-day administration of city affairs.


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