Feb board meeting
In 1976, the Palmyra Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department became a legal entity in our community. As a community, Town and Village together, we enjoyed excellent service from this volunteer fire and rescue department.
In 2003, recognizing the benefits of shared equipment and shared staff, plans began between the Village of Eagle, the Town of Eagle, the Village of Palmyra and the Town of Palmyra to form a joint district with equal representation from each of the four municipalities involved. However, soon after these plans began, the Village of Palmyra decided having only one fourth representation on a board governing this organization was not sufficient for them, and they pulled out of any plans to consolidate. At this point, the entire plan was dropped. The Palmyra Volunteer department continued as usual.
In Wisconsin, only Towns are required to provide EMS protection—cities and villages are not. Villages and cities above a certain size are required to provide fire protection. Because of its small size, the Village of Palmyra is not required to provide fire protection.
In 2011, the Village Board decided they wanted to have complete control of the volunteer department and they pulled out of the agreement that governed the existing department. This left the Town in the position of having to scramble to provide the statutorily required fire and EMS protection, and the decision was made to contract with the village for that protection. They did this via the 2012 contract—a contract which was poorly written from the Town’s perspective.
For the past 10 years, this has been the contract under which the Town has received services. For the first several years, the service provided by the Village was of very questionable quality. Neighboring departments were responding to an inordinate number of calls when the Village had no available staff, and they were beginning to become tired of the situation. It was not until the Village was able to hire James Small that things began to improve. Chief Small has managed to salvage a failed department and under his direction, the service has definitely improved.
Al Larson—discussion of 2012 contract and village’s failure to follow it.
Much has been said about a new contract between the Town and the Village. Late last year, the Village created a draft contract which they later insisted the Town must sign. However, they never presented it to the Town according to the requirements of the existing Contract. Instead, a Village Board member and an unnamed person gave it to the grandson of one of the Town Board members, at that Town Board member’s home. The Village Board member later telephoned the Town Board member and stated that they had left an envelope with the grandson and it was a proposed contract with some “additional” stuff. That town board member took it to the Town Fire and EMS Committee for their perusal.
The Fire and EMS Committee read the draft contract, made financial and text changes and sent those changes to the Village, expecting this to be the beginning of negotiations. Soon after, the Village Board held a special meeting and invited a representative of the Town Board to the meeting. At that meeting, a Village Board member stated that there would be no negotiations. We were told that The contract left at the Town Board member’s home was meant to be a “take it or leave it” contract. One of the clauses in this proposed contract alleviates the Village of responsibility if they cannot provide service due to (among other things) a lack of staff. Another clause requires the Village to provide services to the Town at the same level as the services provided to the Village. As I explained earlier, the Village is not legally required to provide Fire or EMS service, but the Town is. Should the Village become unable for whatever reason to provide service to their own residents, the Village would not bear the legal burden, but the Town would. So, in the very unfortunate circumstance that the Village for some terrible reason became unable to provide the contracted services, the Town would be in a precarious position. Another sticking point was the fact that this contract would have resulted in the Town paying $185 per resident—one of the highest in the state, while the Village paid $121 per resident. The Town receives approximately 1/3rd of the Village Fire and EMS services while the Village receives 2/3rds.
Thus, the Town Fire and EMS Committee began exploring other options for Fire and EMS service. We have learned a lot in a few short months, the most important being that today small, stand-alone departments are becoming less and less viable. This is a situation all over Wisconsin and indeed all over the Nation. Staffing is the critical issue today. Consolidation allows for shared staff and shared equipment.
The Town’s Fire and EMS Committee have been in talks with the Kettle Moraine Fire District and I stress that these are only “talks”. We have also spoken with both Whitewater Fire Department and Rome Fire Department—once again, only talking.
These talks all involve having staff and equipment either in or near the Village. At this point, we are considering possible sites, and since these sites involve negotiations, they are not public at this time.
That brings me to a much-misunderstood issue of something being called “ISOs”. “ISO” stands for “Insurance Services Office” and it is a for-profit company, owned by “Verisk” that has created a Fire Suppression Rating Schedule to create a “fire score” or a “Public Protection Classification”. This score indicates how well protected your community is by the fire department. Since there are various things considered when arriving at this rating score, a score can change by various things in the community. Water supply is a large factor in arriving at the score, so a department in a community with fire hydrants may score better than one in a community without hydrants. If the Town were to contract with a different district or department, their ISO rating might change depending on the resources in our own community. Some insurance companies purchase this information and use the ISO rating to different degrees when determining fire insurance rates, but not all do. State Farm, for one, does not use them at all. Most of us have policies that cover losses other than fire and things like storm damage rates would not be affected by these ISO ratings. We have a couple of links on our website with information on this subject, and there are some print copies here. If you have questions about your insurance rates and how your insurance policy and rates are affected by ISO ratings, the person you should speak with is your own insurance company representative.