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March 26 Headlines
Lincoln School Board opts to re-open the search for district superintendent
Donation discussions occupy LRFD ahead of Fireman's Ball
Martin assumes new role with Citizens Alliance Bank
Free class for alcohol servers and sellers offered in Lincoln
Retiring Superintendents Honored
Patient numbers, plans for dental and behavioral health top discussion with interim CHC Director during March Lincoln Hospital District meeting
Familiar Faces:Pete Sitch Tourney brings players home year after year
This is MOntana: THE LEE METCALF NATIONALWILDLIFE REFUGE (Part 2)
Legislative Roundup: Budget advances while Bullock threatens veto, lawmakers hear bills on dark money, MIPs and broadband
Montana Tales & Trails: They are here
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We should have our photo site up and running someday!!!
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Donation discussions occupy LRFD ahead of Fireman's Ball
It’s been more than 60 years since the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department was formed and in that time the Lincoln Rural Fire District board of trustees hasn’t requested any new mill levies to fund the department’s operation, due primarily to the generosity of the Lincoln community.
Every year since 1991, the LVFD has hosted the annual Fireman’s Ball as it’s primary fundraising event.
This year’s event netted an estimated $11,500, which will provide additional funding for firefighting and rescue equipment in the coming year.
The fundraiser, along with separate donations received throughout the year, helps cover the gap between funding the fire district receives through taxes and it’s actual annual operating costs.
The ball this year came on the heels of several fire district board meetings that discussed the LVFD’s donation policies and established a new approach to donations of used firearms for auction at the Ball, such as those provided by Montana Western Properties to benefit the LVFD for the last three years.
Concerns about auctioning off used firearms as part of the fundraising event were first raised by Trustee Ted Winderl in January. In February, at the monthly board of trustees meeting, he said he had contacted Assistant County Attorney K. Paul Stahl with the question of what liability the District’s may face if a used firearm they auctioned off was defective.
“My concern is . . . when we do a (new) gun raffle, we have somebody to fall back on, which is the gun manufacturer, because it’s new. In a used auction, at the Fireman’s Ball, we’re hanging out.”
At Stahls recommendation, Winderl checked with the district’s insurance company, which indicated that an inspection and certification by a licensed gunsmith would limit their liability.
Fire Chief Zach Muse suggested that it might be in the department’s best interest to foot the bill for such a certification to ensure people are willing to donate guns in the future without feeling like they have to pay an additional fee to do so.
Although there was consensus in February that a gunsmith’s certification was a simple solution, the discussion was tabled to allow for additional information gathering until a special board meeting March 11. In the weeks that followed, Board Chairman Damon Kegel asked a representative of the district’s insurance company for a comparison of the potential liability in auctioning off a new firearm versus a used firearm with a gunsmith certificate.
He found that a new gun presented the least risk, but just barely. “She felt that with the gunsmith and all the other things we do. . . that we have done our due diligence and that we would be better off, almost, with a used gun,” he said.
Muse also found that local gunsmith Jeff Vercoe was willing to inspect and certify the firearms at no charge.
In addition to the certification, Trustee Louie Bouma suggested including a disclaimer before bidding at the auction started, stating that the buyer was purchasing the gun at his or her own risk and was responsible for having it inspected. Trustee Renee Lundberg’s also suggested including the disclaimer in writing.
This year, two donated firearms were auctioned off at the Fireman’s Ball. The first, a .54 caliber black powder pistol with custom engraving and inlay, donated by Jim and Heidi Agner and Merle Horner, fetched $650. A Weatherby .300 Magnum, donated by Montana Western Properties, brought in another $750.
Although the question of liability from donated used firearms was put to rest before the Fireman’s Ball, the Fire District still faces a need to clarify their general donation policy.
Over the years, donations have been made to help fund specific equipment that wasn’t covered by the fire department’s annual budget. Such “earmarked” donations have funded the purchase of equipment such as a thermal imager and GPS units for the fire department.
However, a recent dispute over one such donation, used to help fund the purchase of jackets for active members of the fire company who have met attendance and training standards, brought the issue of such donations to the forefront.
In addition to a dustup involving conflicting accounts of how that donation was intended to be used, Bouma raised concerns that “earmarked” donations may circumvent the trustees duty to manage the district budget. In response to his concerns, the trustees are working with Muse to clarify how those donations are accounted for in the budgeting process.
Fortunately, not all donations to the fire department spark a debate. Aaron Birkholz, the emergency medical services director for the Quick Response Unit, informed the board at their regular meeting March 19, that a sizeable donation of equipment, including backboards, suction devices, practice dummies and various other items, is expected within the next week or two. He said Kelly McKeever, a former paramedic in Great Falls who now works as an educational and training manager for Laerdal Medical, coordinated the donation through his company.
The donation is a welcome surprise that began with a simple request from Muse, who asked McKeever to keep an eye out at medical equipment trade shows he attends for equipment that might be useful. Expecting a few free samples that might come in handy, Muse and Birkholz learned McKeever was given leeway to make a far more substantial donation to help outfit the QRU.
Regardless of the recent policy discussions, it’s a well-established fact that donations play a vital role in both the successful operation of the fire company and the Fire District’s ability to continue it’s longstanding tradition of operating without placing an additional burden on the areas taxpayers.