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Wednesday

April 2014

23

Delafield Town Board, citizens agree on fire talks

LCFR talks to continue, but there are alternatives

Town of Delafield - Town residents and officials agreed Tuesday night to continue discussions about fire department consolidation with representatives of Lake County Fire and Rescue (LCFR) even though Town Chairman Paul Kanter described the talks as "a very frustrating endeavor."

Kanter, and Supervisors Larry Krause, Clare Dundon and Cindi Duchow, discussed with eight citizens for nearly an hour whether to continue to pursue consolidation.

The citizens are among several groups of town residents who are closely monitoring the consolidation discussions. More residents were expected to attend the meeting but apparently were been kept away by Tuesday night's near-blizzard conditions.

The Town of Delafield, along with the villages of Hartland and Pewaukee, and the City of Oconomowoc, are exploring joining Lake Country Fire and Rescue, which currently serves the City of Delafield and the villages of Nashotah and Chenequa.

Krause strongly hinted Tuesday night he was prepared to abandon consolidation for several reasons, particularly after a stormy meeting last week among representatives of the six communities.

Kanter acknowledged that LCFR was not likely to change its funding formula, service levels or organizational structure to accommodate the town. In addition, Kanter said he was concerned the town would have no voice in department operations.

But, he added, "It is too early to give up."

"We owe it to the taxpayers to continue the process. We are not ready to throw in the towel, even as frustrating as it has been," he added.

Although the citizens also urged the Town Board to continue the discussions, the elected officials and their constituents agreed there are other consolidation options available if discussions with LCFR fail.

The Village of Hartland, the city and village of Pewaukee, and the Wales-Genesee Fire Department were mentioned as potential partners in alternative consolidations or mergers.

LCFR officials have estimated the town should save about $60,000 annually if it consolidated the town fire department into LCFR, according to Krause.

However, Krause added, town residents would pay nearly three times as much for emergency medical services. The town charges about $450 for an ambulance call, while LCFR charges about $1,300 per call, according to Deputy Chief Mark Hoppe.

Town resident Betty Thill said she was "skeptical" of the LCFR savings estimates because LCFR cost estimates did not include hiring additional full- or part-time paramedics to serve the town and Village of Hartland.

LCFR would probably have to hire additional staff to provide the communities with 24/7 paramedic emergency medical service, since Hartland and the Town of Delafield do not have paramedics.

The town's existing emergency medical response system would probably have to be dismantled, according to Hoppe, if Fire Station No. 2 on Highway C and Government Hill Road were closed, an option suggested by LCFR officials.

The system, which relies on emergency medical technicians (EMTs) with advance training to respond from their homes to medical emergencies, depends on an ambulance being stationed at Fire House No. 2.

Town Fire Chief Paul Kozlowski said no one at LCFR consulted him with regarding closing the station until shortly before LCFR released its cost estimates and proposed budget, which included the suggested station closing.

LCFR official have emphasized that the cost and budget estimates are very preliminary and the closing of Station No. 2, along with the Village of Chenequa Fire Station, are being offered as possible options.

Chenequa Village Administrator/Police Chief Bob Douglas said he did not think any Chenequa officials were consulted before LCFR suggested closing the Chenequa Fire Station as an option.

Douglas said local officials might not object to the closing provided that the Village of Hartland Fire Department was consolidated into LCFR. The Hartland Fire Department has provided emergency medical service to the east side of the village in previous years, Douglas noted.

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