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Wednesday

July 2014

30

Fire merger meeting stormy

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Communities clash over costs, merger concepts

City of Delafield - A plan that would more than double the size of Lake Country Fire and Rescue was outlined last week during a sometimes stormy meeting of representatives from the six communities the department would serve.

Lake Country Fire and Rescue (LCFR) currently serves the City of Delafield and the villages of Nashotah and Chenequa.

The proposal calls for fire departments from the Town of Delafield, Village of Hartland and the City of Oconomowoc to be added into the regional department with an annual budget of about $4.2 million.

About $2.6 million in revenue would be raised through billings for medical emergency services and ambulance fees, along with other fees charged for department services.

The six communities would share in raising an additional $1.6 million. Each community's cost would be based on its population, number of emergency calls and total assessed value.

Chenequa representatives warned that absorbing three communities might be too big of an expansion for the department. They suggested an incremental expansion over a period of years might be preferable.

Oconomowoc Mayor Jim Daley suggested any formula that resulted in increased fire protection costs for the city might be "a deal breaker," although he emphasized he was interested in consolidation.

The initial funding formula suggests the consolidation would result in increased fire protection costs for Oconomowoc of about $76,000 while the City of Delafield would save about $430,000.

Rich Lartz, chairman of the Consolidation Committee, repeatedly emphasized that the formula calculations were preliminary.

Diane Gard, Oconomowoc city administrator, later emphasized the city is prepared to begin detailed discussions about consolidation with LCFR, despite preliminary cost estimates.

The Village of Pewaukee has also expressed interested in possibly consolidating into LCFR, but village representatives were not at the meeting because of scheduling conflicts.

At one point during the more than two-hour meeting, Hartland Village President Dave Lamerand said he was "pissed off" that the Consolidation Committee had not met since September, while representatives of LCFR met privately with Oconomowoc officials.

Town of Delafield representatives said they were frustrated that a subcommittee appointed by the Consolidation Committee never met, and instead representatives of LCFR private worked out the calculations for the funding formula.

However, representatives of all of the communities said they are interested in continuing discussions and scheduled another meeting for March 21.

During that meeting, representatives from the City of Delafield and the villages of Nashotah and Chenequa are expected to more clearly define how they envision the future of the department and how the consolidation discussions fit with those goals.

The representatives from the City of Oconomowoc, the Village of Hartland and the Town of Delafield are expected to more clearly define their key issues, including how they would improve the funding formula.

Delafield Mayor Ed McAleer and former Nashotah Village President Julie Swenson suggested the funding formula issue was secondary. They asserted that if the communities could commit to consolidation and reach a consensus on how to implement it, the funding issue would be more easily resolved.

McAleer and Delafield representative Cate Rahmlow pressed the Hartland and the Town of Delafield for commitments on whether they wanted paramedical-level emergency response.

Delafield Town Chairman Paul Kanter said his community "could live with" that if it was part of a consolidation that helped improve services while reducing costs. However, he added that the Town Board had, in the past, made a "very conscious" decision not to implement paramedic-level services.

"It will depend," said Lamerand. "Right now, I am not sure the $38,000 Hartland saves in the formula is worth it when you consider other factors such as how much we are going to be contributing overall (to consolidation)."

Annual budget

Now: $2.1 million

Proposed: $4.2 million

Local budgets

City of Delafield

Now: $759,00

Proposed: $330,000

Savings: $429,689

Nashotah

Now: $107,551

Proposed: $46,367

Savings: $61,183

Chenequa

Now: $112,526

Proposed: $51,955

Savings: $60,570

Oconomowoc

Now: $536,625

Proposed: $613,448

Increase: $76,823

Hartland

Now: $375,845

Proposed: $337,219

Savings: $38,625

Town of Delafield

Now: $330,628

Proposed: $254,757

Savings: $75,870

Dept. size

Population

Now: 9,068

Proposed: 42,215

Calls for service

Now: 765

Proposed: 2,914

Square miles

Now: 19

Proposed: 56

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