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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Closed Meet On Wausaukee Contract For Rescue Squad

Issue Date: September 16, 2021

As promised at the August 16 meeting of Wausaukee Rescue Squad, Inc., Wausaukee Village Board convened a special closed session meeting to discuss the proposed 2022 contract offered by the private not-for-profit rescue squad to the four municipalities it serves, and invited the three other municipalities to send representatives. They all accepted. The closed executive meeting was held at the end of a special Wausaukee Village Board meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7 at the Village Hall, which is located on Harrison Ave., across the street from the Rescue Squad headquarters.

Municipal representatives present included Mike Caylor and Steve Renikow for the Town of Wagner; Ron Magley, Mark Wisinski, and Matt Mattison for the Town of Amberg; Jeff Engelmann for the Town of Wausaukee, and Village President Pat Tracy and trustees Darryll Schmidt, Mack McKim, JoAnn Polomis, Steve Stumbris, and Derrick McGee for the Village of Wausaukee. Trustee J.J. Feldman was absent.

First item of business was to open and award bid for the reconstruction of Milwaukee Avenue and Monroe Avenue. Vote without dissent was to award the bid to Northeast Asphalt for $43,265.

Before going into closed session the board also approved a Façade Grant application from Tina Rockwell for T-Bells Boutique at 825 Main Street, approved a change in the official zoning map of the village, and awarded the bid to replace flood lights in Payant Park to Graese Electric for $1,500.

The board then voted without dissent to go into closed session "to deliberate on the 2022 Wausaukee Rescue Squad contract terms," in accord with State Statute 19.85(1) (e).10.

The board returned to open session and took no action before adjourning at 6:48 p.m. The total meeting had lasted just 12 minutes shy of three hours, with most of the time spent in closed session.

The next regular monthly meeting of the Rescue Squad Administrative Board is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20, and the next regular Wausaukee Village Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. that evening.

The 2022 contract proposed by the Rescue Squad was discussed in August by group's Administrative Board. That board includes President Steve VanDenBerg, Treasurer Tom Arthur, Vice President Kevin Kwasny, and Secretary Jaimie VanDenBerg, all apparently elected by Rescue Squad "members," who are now all paid employees. They meet as an Administrative Board with representatives of the municipalities at 5 p.m. on the third Mondays of each month, but that board appears to exercise no decision making powers.

Slightly over a year ago, the Rescue Squad still comprised of volunteers who were paid only when responding to a call. VanDenBerg and others on the squad came to the municipalities and said they could not get enough volunteers to keep going, and unless their funding was increased enough to pay full time personnel 24/7 they were preparing to disband, which would have left the area without Rescue Squad service after Dec. 31, 2020.

Their budget proposal called for each municipality to pay approximately five times what they had been paying, with the total coming to $362,095 for 2021. That amount was eventually approved, but a new method was worked out for dividing the costs on the basis of the number of improved parcels in each municipality.

There also was discussion at the time that the elected officials would need some authority over the former volunteer members, who have now become employees. There was also a requirement that some official accounting be done by an outside firm. The accounting requirement appears to have been met, but more than a year has passed, and elected officials still have no real oversight of the employees who run the private non-profit corporation that exists because of contributions from citizens and the municipalities.

Last month the municipalities were notified that their cost to have services continued for 2022 will be going up considerably for next year.

Squad personnel declined to share the numbers with the press, but discussion at the Aug. 16 meeting indicated it is a 19 to 20 percent increase over last year.

Budget numbers also were not shared with the press, but conversation indicated the budget projects $134,541 as the squad's income from ambulance runs, based on last year's numbers, and payroll alone is expected to be about $450,000, more than the total contract amounts last year.

Wausaukee Village President Pat Tracy said that request was too much of an increase, and some of the others present agreed with him. He said he would be picking up a print out of income and all checks issued during the past year from the accountant on Wednesday, Aug. 18, and invited leaders of the other municipalities to join the Wausaukee Village Board at a closed executive meeting at the Village Hall to be scheduled in the very near future to discuss Rescue Squad issues. That led to the closed session at the Wausaukee Village Board meeting that was held on Sept. 7 in preparation for the Rescue Squad Administrative Board meeting on Monday, Sept. 20.


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