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Saturday

April 2014

19

Officials begin fire merger talks

Elected chiefs of Nashotah, Chenequa, City of Delafield, will meet with Oconomowoc mayor

The municipal owners of Lake Country Fire and Rescue (LCFR) plan to meet soon with City of Oconomowoc officials to determine whether the city is still interested in consolidating its fire department with LCFR, even though it appears the consolidation might initially increase emergency service costs for the city.

Based on the funding formula that is currently used by LCFR, the city's expenses could increase Oconomowoc emergency services costs by more than $200,000.

City of Delafield Mayor Ed McAleer said LCFR Chief Jack Edwards is trying to come up with a mutually agreeable date for a meeting among Oconomowoc Mayor Jim Daley, Nashotah Village President Rich Lartz, Chenequa Village President Robert Foote Jr. and McAleer.

McAleer, Lartz and Foote are the elected chief executives of the three communities that share in the funding and operations of Lake Country Fire and Rescue.

Daley expressed an interest in consolidating the Oconomowoc department with LCFR in a letter to LCFR officials earlier this year.

The letter was written shortly after a consolidation committee began considering the possibility of merging the Town of Delafield and Village of Hartland departments into LCFR.

There are initial indications that the three communities would have to pay more for fire and emergency medical services if they consolidated with LCFR, according to McAleer.

McAleer, Lartz and Foote recently meet privately with Edwards to review how consolidation of Oconomowoc, Hartland and Town of Delafield departments would affect the formula used to fund LCFR.

Initial indications, according to McAleer, is that all three communities would pay more to consolidate with LCFR.

However, the consolidation would also result in the communities upgrading their emergency medical services to the paramedic level, improve their fire and emergency medical response times, and reducing long-term capital costs, according to McAleer.

Oconomowoc City Administrator Diane Gard has said the availability of 24-hour, seven-day-a-week paramedic emergency medical services is one of the reasons Oconomowoc is interested in the consolidation.

Chenequa, Nashotah and the City of Delafield share the cost of the nearly $2 million consolidateddepartment based on the population of each community, the number of emergency calls within the community, and the total value of the improved structures and land within each community.

McAleer said his goal in the discussions is for each of the six communities to be treated equitably if Oconomowoc, Hartland and the Town of Delafield join with the City of Delafield, Nashotah and Chenequa in funding and operating LCFR.

McAleer said he might be willing to consider changing the formula to reduce some of the costs for the new communities, provided the formula treats all of the communities equitably.

"However, if we are going to start discussing changes in the formula, those discussions are going to have to be in open meetings with all of the members of the (consolidation) committee," he said.

"We are not going to consider changes in the formula based on private meetings with the elected chief executives," he added.

The consolidation committee consists of three representatives from the City of Delafield, Town of Delafield and Villages of Chenequa, Nashotah and Hartland. It began discussions about the possible consolidation of the Hartland and Town of Delafield fire departments into LCFR in August.

There were indications during those initial meetings that the existing funding formula would not treat all of five communities equitably, according to Rich Lartz,Nashotah Village President.

The talks were put on hold when Oconomowoc indicated it was also interested in exploring consolidation with LCFR.

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