Tours of the renovated Eau Claire City Hall turned out to be a hot ticket on July 25, creating a queue of people waiting for their group’s turn to get a sneak peek inside the building.
After a few minutes of standing at City Hall’s new entrance, I wandered off as there was still plenty of time before my tour group would go in.
Strewn around the parking lot were vehicles from Eau Claire’s utilities, streets, police and fire departments, and employees there to talk about their jobs.
Curiosity led me to the police’s K-9 unit SUV, which has a special back compartment where the department’s highly trained dogs ride and can be released by remote when their handler needs them.
The compartment had a built-in water dish, but I also learned that the dogs get their own air conditioning as well.
Jake, a black German shepherd, stood patiently next to Officer Ian O’Connell as his handler told me how the police dog is treated somewhat differently from his family’s pets.
For instance, one thing that Jake will not be allowed to do is to play catch with a tennis ball. The reason why, O’Connell explained, is that tennis balls quickly attract sand, which will gradually wear down a dog’s teeth. With the police dog relied upon for everything from sniffing drugs to apprehending people, every part of it — including its teeth — need to be in top condition.
But Jake still gets plenty of companionship at O’Connell’s home, the officer said. The family raises chickens and Jake will walk with the birds, not getting distracted by them or bothering them because of how well the dog’s behavior has been honed through training.
After a few questions that satisfied my need for K-9 trivia, my attention went to the city’s newest firetruck.
I saw the array of shiny chrome levers and asked a nearby firefighter how tricky it is to operate the truck’s water pumps.
He told me the key to the whole thing was a rather simple looking knob in the middle of the controls with a small digital display above it.
Turning that knob gets the water flowing and the accompanying readout says what pressure it’s at.
The different levers are for options, such as switching from plain water to fire-extinguishing foam.
As far as the water in the truck goes, this one holds 500 gallons.
The firefighter said that’s on the low end for a tanker truck, but allows more space for life-saving rescue equipment.
Using only the truck’s supply provides just a few minutes of water to douse a fire. But that can be enough to extinguish a small fire, the firefighter said, or give a head-start on fighting a big blaze while another firefighter connects the truck’s pump to a nearby hydrant to tap into the city’s water supply for a sustained battle.
That day was a good opportunity for a close-up look at some of the city’s vehicles, employees and even dogs that I don’t usually get when covering meetings.
And it was a enlightening way to kill some time before my tour of City Hall began.