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Wis. municipalities at odds over fire, EMS services

The two municipalities share fire and EMS services, but town board member said the way things are split is unfair to the town

By Xavier Ward
The Janesville Gazette

DARIEN, Wis. — Officials in the town of Darien staked out their positions on the future of the joint EMS department it shares with the village of Darien during a town board meeting Tuesday night.

The two municipalities share fire and EMS services, but town board member Jim Terpstra said the way things are split is unfair to the town. Terpstra said the town of Darien contributes 58.28 percent of the EMS budget, but the village often makes decisions without consulting town officials.

The village of Darien also recently called for the resignation of the current chief because of his managerial style and decision-making and considered hiring an interim chief, but the town board was not consulted in either discussion, Terpstra said.

Terpstra said the town board is entitled to make 50 percent of the decisions regarding EMS and fire, or at least have equal input.

“It’s supposed to be a joint commission,” Terpstra said. Instead, the village is pushing its own agenda and trying to make decisions without consultation of the town board, he said.

“We owe it to our town residents to have a say in the improvement of EMS,” Terpstra said.

Terpstra made a motion Tuesday to investigate the town’s options to withdraw from the shared EMS and fire services. The village of Sharon previously used Darien EMS and fire services but withdrew for liability purposes, Terpstra said.

Town Attorney Kim Howarth asked Terpstra to reconsider and said the town would see if the issue could be resolved under chapters 5 and 7 of the town ordinances, which detail the shared EMS services and the fire services, respectively. Terpstra withdrew his motion.

The joint commission allows the town and village to elect more qualified employees to the fire and EMS departments, instead of making it a popularity contest, Howarth said.

The EMS department is struggling for staff because it is run on a volunteer basis, Darien EMS Chief Eric Sladek said.

That lack of staff resulted in a 17.67 percent failure to respond to EMS calls placed so far in 2016, Sladek said.

“I’d like to see the board of directors of EMS look at themselves, too,” Town Chair Cecil Logterman said, citing the need for a comprehensive evaluation of the EMS department.

The town needs to move forward, and to do so, a joint commission is necessary, Logterman said.

While Logterman noted the legitimacy of board member Terpstra’s concerns, he said he’d like to continue working with the village, as it is mutually beneficial to the town and village.

The town board is set to meet again Jan. 4.

Copyright 2016 The Janesville Gazette