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Friday

August 2014

29

Lake Country fire talks slow as officials examine financial, operational data

Talks with Hartland, Town of Delafield, delayed for Oconomowoc

Local officials have put on pause discussions about the possibility of the Village of Hartland and Town of Delafield fire departments being incorporated into Lake Country Fire and Rescue (LCFR), which serves the City of Delafield and the villages of Nashotah and Chenequa.

The talks are being delayed to give LCFR staff an opportunity to review fiscal and operational data provided by the Oconomowoc Fire Department after Oconomowoc city officials indicated they, too, are interested in becoming part of the regional fire department.

Initially, it was expected that a 15-member consolidation committee would consider the Village of Hartland and the Town of Delafield separately, but on a parallel track, with the idea of the Oconomowoc joining LCFR.

But officials have changed directions and decided to first explore the possibility of incorporating all three departments - Hartland, Town of Delafield and Oconomowoc - into Lake Country Fire and Rescue at the same time.

One of the reasons for considering the simultaneous consolidation, according to Delafield Mayor Ed McAleer, is because of the large tax base the City of Oconomowoc would be contributing.

According to the existing funding formula, each community's share of the cost of operating LCFR is based on the community's population, number of emergency calls, and the assessed valuation of improved properties and structures within the community.

The assessed valuation in the City of Oconomowoc that would be applied to the formula approaches nearly $2 billion, nearly twice the assessed valuation contributed by the City of Delafield and multiple times more than Chenequa and Nashotah's assessed valuation contribution.

The Oconomowoc fire and emergency medical services operating and capital budget approaches nearly $2.5 million a year, almost a half-million dollars more that the proposed budget LCFR for 2013.

Nashotah Village President Rich Lartz, who chairs the consolidation committee, sent an email on Saturday, Nov 3., to Village of Hartland and Town of Delafield officials, as well as members of the committee, notifying them of the delay in the talks regarding consolidation of Hartland and the Town of Delafield.

"We have not put the town and village on the back burner. The decision to also look at Oconomowoc numbers is driven by the impact they might have for all involved. We will keep you updated as we go along," Lartz said in the email.

He also said he expected the Oconomowoc data would be completed within a week and as soon as it was received, "a meeting will be set up to determine the intent of the city."

Oconomowoc City Administrator Diane Gard told Lake Country Publications late last week that city and fire department officials are still collecting the data that is to be turned over to the LCFR.

In addition to the city's population, assessed valuation and annual fire and emergency medical services budget, the data will also probably include the number of emergency calls made by the department as well as its roster of full-time and voluntary paid-on-call members.

McAleer suggested that because of the size of the Oconomowoc's assessed valuation, as well as the number of emergency medical calls, inclusion of the city in the consolidation discussion might represent a large saving of money for all of the communities.

Hartland Village Administrator David Cox, one of three village representatives on the consolidation committee, said Hartland Village President David Lamerand and village trustees probably would not object to putting the talks on pause until the Oconomowoc data is collected.

"Our village president has said along all that this is all about dollars. If it doesn't make sense financially, there is no point in going any further," Cox said.

Town of Delafield Supervisor Larry Krause, also a representative on the committee, said, "It is pretty much up to Rich Lartz if this is what he wants to do."

"The town is going to be open-minded about any proposal that can provide our residents more bang for the bucks," Krause added.

Town of Delafield and Hartland officials met for the first time with Lake Country Fire and Rescue representatives in late September.

At the meeting, it was determined there would have to be some adjustments made in the existing funding formula in order to equitably spread the costs of operating the department over the five communities.

About two weeks after that meeting, Oconomowoc's interest is joining LCFR was publicly revealed.

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