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Tuesday

September 2014

2

Dousman Fire District begins in New Year

New fire district begins after New Year's Eve

Village of Dousman - When the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, the newly consolidated Dousman Fire District will being operations. The district is ready after more than a year and half of complex fire department merger negotiations that at one point involved as many as nine Lake Country communities.

The newly created district, which is a consolidation of the former Summit and Dousman fire districts, will serve all of the villages of Summit and Dousman and most of the Town of Ottawa.

The former Summit Fire District which served the northern half of the Village of Summit and all of the Village of Oconomowoc Lake has been dissolved.

The Village of Oconomowoc Lake will contract with the Okauchee Fire Department for emergency services. The North Prairie Fire Department will continue serving the southeast corner of the Town of Ottawa.

Reasons for merger

The consolidation discussions began in the spring and summer of 2011 when the Summit Fire District asked neighboring fire departments to submit consolidation proposals. Officials in the Village of Oconomowoc Lake and Summit wanted a consolidation in order to provide more cost-effective, sustainable fire protection and emergency medical services to their communities.

Two departments submitted proposals, Lake Country Fire and Rescue and the Dousman Fire District.

Lake Country Fire and Rescue (LCFR) with a nearly $2 million budget and nearly a dozen fulltime fire fighter/paramedics, serves the City of Delafield and the villages of Nashotah and Chenequa.

But, by the end of 2011, the Summit Fire District board had determined they would be more comfortable consolidating with the Dousman Fire District whose operations and department culture was more similar to the Dousman district than LCFR, according to Summit Fire officials.

Funding formula

The elected officials in Summit, Ottawa and Dousman agreed to share operating costs of the new department based on a formula that included each community's population, tax base and number of emergency calls.

As result of the formula, Ottawa and Summit would experience decreases in their emergency services cost, while such costs for the Village of Dousman would increase by about $50,000 to $60,000.

The reason for the cost increase in the Village of Dousman is the number of emergency calls to the Three Pillars Senior Community. Three Pillars is a nonprofit organization exempt from paying real estate taxes which usually help pay for emergency services. Dousman Village President Jack Nissen emphasized that the consolidation would result in lower emergency service cost for the village in the future.

The Village of Summit and the Town of Ottawa initially offered to allow Dousman to phase in the additional payments until the Dousman Village Board could agree on how to pay for the added costs.

Nissen is presently in negotiations with Three Pillars representatives regarding the Masonic Lodge, the owner of the senior living facility, making some kind of annual payment for emergency services in lieu of real estate taxes. The agreement is expected to be presented to the Village Board in early 2013.

Equipment

Another key issue was how the fire trucks and other equipment owned by the Summit district would be turn over to the new fire district, according to Ottawa Town Chairman Richard Arrowood.

The Village of Oconomowoc Lake owned a 25 percent interest in all of the Summit district equipment.

The villages of Summit and Oconomowoc Lake reached an agreement that Summit would buy out Oconomowoc Lake's interest in the equipment.

The Village of Summit then reached an agreement with the Dousman Fire District. The village would donate all of the Summit Fire Department equipment to the newly consolidated district.

Dousman Fire officials would determine what equipment they would keep and what equipment they would sell. The proceeds from the equipment sales would be returned to the Village of Dousman.

Dousman Fire District Chief Steve Totzke said he has completed an inventory of the Summit equipment the department can use and what will be sold. The City of Oconomowoc at its Dec. 4 Common Council meeting approved purchasing a used tanker from Summit. The city had already been borrowing a tanker from Summit, the merger allowed it to obtain the equipment for $27,000.

Totzke said the department will be ready to operate when the clock strikes midnight on Monday.

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