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ASK YOUR GOVERNMENT: Who decides emergency response?

Each week, Herald reporter Brandi Jewett answers your questions about local government, laws and other local topics.

Q. While driving, I heard sirens and pulled over. Both a fire truck and an Altru ambulance were responding. Why do two units respond? Who pays for these calls? Does a person have to pay for both if there is a fee?

A. The number of emergency responders passing you on the road depends on how bad the situation they're responding to may be.

Art Culver, manager of ambulance services at Altru Hospital, says in the case of a medical emergency the ambulance crews work with a tiered system of health delivery.

Depending on the severity of the medical emergency, you may see Grand Forks Police, Grand Forks Fire Department and Altru Ambulance Services all respond.

Others responding could be the U.S. Border Patrol or the Grand Forks Sheriff officers, depending on the location of the incident.

Your city taxes help pay for the services provided by the police and fire departments, which had budgets of about $6.7 million and $6.5 million, respectively, approved for next year.

Altru Ambulance Services has an additional charge for any medical treatment provided.

Altru Ambulance also responds to all fire alarms and fires. That's done as a safety measure for the firefighters who may risk possible injury at the scene.

The ambulance does not charge anyone for responding to fire calls if no one is treated.


Q. I drive north on Columbia Road between 7 and 7:30 a.m. on a daily basis and have for many years. For approximately the last month or so, the lights at Columbia and Sixth Avenue North are always red for the Columbia Road drivers. It used to be green until there was a car coming up to the light on Sixth. Now it seems like the default is for green for vehicles on Sixth. This morning, as I approached the light, it turned red and there weren't any vehicles approaching the intersection from either direction on Sixth Avenue. Why?

A. Looks like you found a glitch in the system. No worries though, tech support, aka the city, has addressed the problem, according to spokesman Kevin Dean.

Crews went out to investigate and discovered a software problem in the controller at that intersection that has now been corrected.

He says this is a good example of the public acting as the ears and eyes of the city.

City staff members responsible for maintaining roads, equipment and other services rely on reports like this to help keep things operating as they should.

If you notice anything that appears unusual, report it directly by calling 311 and city staff will look into it.

Have questions? Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108 or (800) 477-6572 extension 1108, email, follow her on Twitter at @GFCityBeat or see her blog at