Ambulance deal opens door to improved relations between 2 Wis. municipalities
The Town of Waterford and the Village of Waterford are considering forming a combined fire department, too
The Journal Times
WATERFORD, Wisc. — Seeking to end years of acrimony between neighbors, the Town of Waterford is restarting an ambulance deal with the Village of Waterford, and both sides have agreed to pursue a combined fire department, possibly including other nearby municipalities.
The agreement struck Wednesday night during a special joint meeting at Waterford Union High School will return emergency medical services provided to the village to the town, coming three years after town officials broke off the partnership because of political differences.
Town Board and Village Board members exchanged messages of civility and fellowship in the special meeting, with both sides expressing regret over past conflicts and vowing to rebuild relations.
That rebuilding is starting with the ambulance deal.
Both boards agreed to create a joint committee to discuss combining their two fire departments — inviting other nearby municipalities to join, too — and both agreed that representatives of the two neighboring communities should meet jointly on a regular basis to maintain a sense of partnership.
Noting past disagreements and harsh words, Town Board member Doug Schwartz said, "I hope we are past that."
Village Board members returned the sentiment, each taking turns to voice support for a renewed partnership on emergency medical services and for a reopened dialogue between neighbors.
"We have a prime opportunity as two communities," Village Board member Adam Jaskie said. "We really need to strive to be one, as much as possible."
Town Chairman Tom Hincz, who has clashed openly with village officials in the past and who tried to block movement toward a new ambulance deal, was absent from the joint meeting. Town Board member Tim Szeklinski, a Hincz ally on many issues, also chose not to attend.
But Schwartz was joined by colleagues Dale Gauerke and Teri Nicolai in forging a three-member majority and moving forward on an emergency medical services issue that was about public safety as much as regional cooperation.
Led by Hincz, the town severed a deal for village fire department ambulances in 2019 amid unrelated political differences that included fears of unwanted village annexation into town territory. The town at the time was getting ambulance service from two sources: The village fire department covered the south side of town, while the Tichigan Volunteer Fire Co. covered the north side.
Since the Tichigan Volunteer Fire Co. took over service throughout the town, complaints have emerged among south-side residents who were dissatisfied with slower response times.
Members of the public broke into applause Wednesday after Schwartz, Gauerke and Nicolai voted 3-0 to restart ambulance service with the village, effective Nov. 1.
Village President Don Houston reiterated an earlier offer of serving the town's south side with ambulances without any up-front cost to the town, but with user fees charged to those needing emergency medical assistance.
Houston said the arrangement would provide faster response times and more efficient cooperation between the two communities.
"Logistically, how could you argue?" he said. "It only makes sense."
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