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Pull tabs pay out big for Farmington Fire Department

Sure, playing pull tabs is fun. Winning at pull tabs is even better. But over the past year or so, playing pull tabs has also helped reduce the burden on Farmington taxpayers, and increased the safety of Farmington firefighters.

It’s been just over a year since the Farmington Fire Relief Association — the board of directors that manages the retirement accounts for local firefighters and provides support and services to the firefighters — got its charitable gambling license. The license has come in handy.

The Farmington Fire Relief Association has held a number of fundraisers in the past year, the most well-known of which is its annual Turkey Bingo Party. Money made during those fundraisers has been donated to the city of Farmington, but was then assigned to the fire department’s budget. That way, the funds can be used to purchase equipment and uniforms that otherwise are not in the city’s budget.

According to the relief association’s webpage, the association has donated over $50,000 to the city over the past five years.

But now, thanks to the charitable gambling license, the fire relief association can donate even more. The association made a donation of $22,000 earlier this month. That money will be put into the fire department’s coffers and be used for a couple of new items in the next year.

“In a perfect world, the city could pay for it all, but it never happens that way,” said firefighter Mark Arens, the public relations chairman for the relief association. “We have to do this to get the little add-ons and extra fire equipment.

“It’s kind of a win-win all around. It helps the community because we don’t have to spend tax dollars, and it helps out the fire department because we have the money to spend on the equipment we need,” he said.

Fire chief Tim Pietsch can allocate the funds received from the fire relief association as he sees fit. Recently, local firefighters wanted to try out a new style of fire helmet that is lighter, more compact, and comes with a set of goggles, a full shield and a built-in flashlight mounted on top. But there isn’t any money set aside in the 2014 budget to let fire fighters experiment with new equipment.

That’s where the funds from the fire relief association come in.

“Sometimes, when there’s extra stuff like that, the nicer equipment, we have to do fundraisers,” Arens said. “Those (helmets) are a little more user-friendly on the neck, which makes it easier on the guys. It certainly helps having that funding in place so we can get things like that.”

The fire relief association receives pull tab revenues from Pizza Man and Farmington Lanes.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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