Falcon Heights considers contracting out for fire department

16November 2020

Falcon Heights officials are considering contracting with neighboring communities to take over the duties of its fire department.

The volunteer Falcon Heights Fire Department entered a contract with Roseville for one year in December of 2019 for administrative operations. Now that contract is almost up and the Falcon Heights City Council is considering interest from communities to take over all services.

According to an audit this year, Falcon Heights’ own department has a significant lack of availability during the day and needs to ramp up recruitment. It noted three instances the past year where it was unable to send an emergency response vehicle to an emergency call.

The daytime  staffing crunch is a problem Falcon Heights has been dealing with for years, noted the audit, which was performed by Roseville Fire Department officials. It has 16 firefighters, with one on leave and non-active and another pending retirement. The goal would be to have 20-25 firefighters in the Ramsey County suburb of about 5,400 residents.

In the past, city staff have regularly updated their website suggesting that they are looking for more firefighters, even if they live outside of Falcon Heights. It takes one to two years to hire and train a fully functional firefighter or emergency medical responder, only adding to difficulties.

A year ago, the Falcon Heights and Roseville city councils agreed to the $40,000 contract, in which neighboring Roseville would take responsibility for all administrative and command services, as well as the department-wide audit. Response times and services have improved under the contract, but it is not a long-term solution.

“We were there just to make sure the bills were being paid, payroll was coming through, and training was happening,” said Patrick Trudgen, the Roseville city manager.

Falcon Heights’ Fire Department also served the city of Lauderdale up until July. Lauderdale recently signed a contract with the St. Paul Fire Department.

Falcon Heights officials said it was time to take a serious look at the financial stability of the community and how better services can be provided to the residents. This past month it sought “letters of intent” for contract services. The two cities who have expressed an interest in serving the Falcon Heights area are Roseville and St. Paul, said Sack Thongvanh, the city administrator for Falcon Heights. Falcon Heights own fire department also submitted such a letter.

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