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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Boards Discuss Future Of Wausaukee Rescue Squad

Issue Date: September 23, 2020

Representatives from the Town and Village of Wausaukee, and possibly from other municipalities will be meeting with Wausaukee Rescue Squad officials starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29 at the Squad building for discussions that could decide whether or not the Rescue Squad itself lives or dies.

For the past several weeks, towns in the Squad's service area have been faced with contract renewal requests that come with huge price increases to cover the cost of converting the emergency medical service from a volunteer organization into one with regularly paid employees.

The Squad's proposal would increase each contact for 2021 to about five times what they charged in 2020. According to their website, the increase per municipality would be Wagner, $71,400; Amberg, $74,065; Town of Wausaukee, $112,370; Village of Wausaukee $101,925, and Middle Inlet $2,335, for a total of $362,095.The minimum amount of recruitment needed for this proposal is 16 personnel. The letter indicated if efforts to convert to a paid service are unsuccessful they would serve out their contract to the end of 2020 and then stop providing services.

When the request came up at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8 the Wausaukee Town Board decided to form a committee that would contact local municipalities who are also served by the Wausaukee Rescue Squad to work together to resolve issue.

Wausaukee Town Chair Jeff Englemann and Supervisor Bob Jicha came to the Wausaukee Village Board meeting on Monday, Sept. 21 to invite them to help form a multi-jurisdictional committee to discuss future EMS services. The village accepted, and the Sept. 29 meeting was scheduled.

The Wagner Town Board had discussed the Squad's price hike from from $14,280 for 2020 to $71,400 for 2021 at its meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 9 and then postponed a decision until October.

Englemann told the Village Board that the town's contract would cost $130,000 more next year, "And that's quite a jump." He said he had been told by people in Wagner that they would go with Marinette, and he predicted Amberg would probably go with Pembine, and wondered what would happen to costs for the town and village if the other municipalities dropped out.

Englemann said he has little faith in the Squad's management, and declared in the last 10 years "money has been walking out their doors...literally..." referring to past problems with embezzlement.

Englemann said many of the Squad's calls are picked up by other entities in any case, and asked, "Are you guys really going to pay this squad $150,000 a year?"

Jicha said the town has formed a committee to find ways of dealing with the Rescue Squad's proposed price increase. "We want to find out if we an do something about the the price hike to $150,000 annually by the first of the year.

He said there is a double jeopardy, in that if the town has to take money from their highway budget they will fall below the 85 percent state requirements, and end up losing state aid revenue as well as paying the higher Rescue Squad price.

"If we get our heads together, I think we should be able to get back to where we should be," Englemann commented. He said he and Jicha, as the town's Rescue Squad Committee, would like to meet with some village representatives and Rescue Squad people prior to setting the town budget in October.

Village Trustee Joann Polomis asked if the town had checked into what it would cost to contract with a professional emergency medical service provider.

Jicha said he had spoken with one of the suggested providers, and was told they would need local employees in order to serve the area at all. He said the Crivitz Rescue Squad "is solvent," with 27 members, while the Twin Bridge Rescue Squad "is in the same shape that we are."

For at least a year Wausaukee Rescue Squad officers have been unsuccessfully attempting to attract enough volunteers to fill their shifts, and have said they are now down to eight Emergency Medical Technician volunteers (EMTs), which is why they are trying to now have paid service providers. The plan would be to pay EMTs $15 per hour to be on call at the Squad Building.

"You can't legislate volunteerism," Jicha agreed.

"It's a hard job," Englemann declared. He said the volunteers who continue to serve are dedicated people who put a lot of time and effort into providing the Rescue Squad services.

Village Board President Pat Tracy commented the Squad cannot continue to run with only eight volunteer members, when they need three shifts with three providers each.

Squad Vice President Kevin Kwasny, who was there with Squad President Steve Vandenberg, said the Squad can run with two people, but they don't want to..."It's not good patient care." He said right now they have only two drivers, three trained first responders, and four EMTs.

Englemann asked how they would solve that problem by throwing money at it, and Kwasny explained they feel by paying $15 per hour they could get EMTs from other areas to sit at the Squad building in Wausaukee to cover shifts.

Englemann suggested the proposed committee should be discussing these issues.

Vandenberg said the Squad has had this problem for at least three years. He said as to the Town of Wausaukee, "We called, we left messages inviting you to attend our meetings, and no one came and our calls were not returned...We set up a meeting at the high school and no one showed up."

After time and date were set for the Sept. 29 meeting at the Squad building across the street from the Wausaukee Village Hall, Vandenberg said he would invite representatives from Amberg and Wagner. He asked the representatives to start thinking before the meeting about where the money should come from, and if the assessments should be allocated on the basis of population, tax base or some other criteria. Vandenberg said he has been told the Pembine squad won't come down to Wausaukee and the Crivitz squad will not come up.

Wausaukee Village Clerk/Administrator Sara Pullen said she would be at the Village Hall that evening with the lights on, in case the squad gets a call and the meeting has to be moved.

In regular business for the evening the Village Board accepted the resignation of Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Barb Pociask with regrets and with praise for her value to the village.

They approved a Finance and Purchasing Committee recommendation to use the village's $9,234 in CARES Act funding for Covid-19 related expenditures including a new laptop computer for the clerk's office, a 60-inch smart TV for the board room, voting booths, touchless soap and hand towel dispensers for all park restrooms, a new phone system to allow for teleconferencing, an additional monitor and a drop box for the village hall. By CARES Act rules, the money must be spent by Nov. 1 and the village applies for reimbursement through the Recovery Act after the money is spent.

Because of the newly redone roads and plantings in Evergreen Park the board reversed a previous decision and agreed not to allow Christmas in the Park this year. Those who want to decorate Christmas Trees on the park perimeter will be allowed to come inside to do so, but viewers will not be allowed to drive through the park, and the park roads will not be plowed once the snow falls.

The board agreed to apply for a $600,000 State Trust Fund Loan for 20 years at 4 percent interest to cover the village's $542,000 share of the Evergreen Park Improvement Project costs. In addition to the already allocated funds, loan proceeds will buy approximately 32 trees, 22 picnic tables to replace all the old ones, kitchen appliances for the new enclosed pavilion and Wi-fi installation for the park.

The board approved creation of a TIF District as recommended by the Plan Commission. Pullen explained with a TIF District all the tax revenue from new improvements stays in the village to be used for infrastructure and is not distributed to the county or the school district. She said hopefully it will provide enough increment to do the Ranger Hill infrastructure to allow the proposed housing developments there.

The new General Dollar store to be built on the site of the old car wash and Eric's Service will provide a welcome head start for the TIF District, and create six to ten new jobs.

After other business was finished the board went into closed session to discuss hiring a person to fill the assistant clerk/treasurer post being vacated by Pociask. Pullen said she had received four applications. After returning to open session they set a special meeting to interview the top three candidates at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25.


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