Town says it may not be able to afford city fire service

Increase in Port charge for protection may prompt town to look to other municipalities for service
Ozaukee Press staff

Town of Port Washington officials said Monday that no matter whether the City of Port decides to create an enhanced fire department or consolidate with the Saukville and Grafton fire departments, they may not be able to afford the cost.

“They’re going to more than double their fire budget,” Town Chairman Mike Didier told the board.

Didier, who met recently with City Administrator Tony Brown to discuss the issue, told town supervisors that the fire department budget would increase from about $800,000 to at least $1.8 million, a 128% increase.

And since the town’s fire contract with the city calls for it to pay 17% of that cost, its bill would increase significantly too, Didier said.

“Our check will bounce,” he said. “I don’t see our current formula working under any of (the options).”

The biggest reason the city is looking at these options is to adequately staff its ambulance service, Didier, who is a Port firefighter, said.

“I get it,” he said. “The status quo isn’t working.”

Last year, he noted, the city couldn’t staff the ambulance for at least six hours a day 42% of the time. On weekends, that number increased to 54%.

But, Didier said, “if you look at the reason (ambulance calls are increasing), none of them has anything to do with the town.”

A study presented to the Port Common Council last week showed that 30% of all ambulance calls last year come from eight senior living facilities in the city, he said.

“Why are we paying a percentage of that?” he asked.

The number of ambulance calls in the town has remained relatively stable, Didier said.

The town’s only choices, Didier said, are to renegotiate its contract with the city or find another fire department willing to provide fire and ambulance service to the town.

City officials have suggested the key to funding the department into the future is to pass a referendum to exceed the state-imposed levy limits.

“I don’t see that passing (in the town),” Didier said.

Town Supr. Greg Welton said the town should consider asking other departments, such as Saukville or Belgium, if they would be willing to contract with the town.

“They (the City of Port) need to know we might go somewhere else,” he said, noting that half the town is closer to Saukville than Port.

But there are issues with transferring coverage to another department, officials said.

“The problem with Belgium is they don’t have EMS,” Welton noted.

But Belgium is in consolidation talks with the county’s other northern departments, a plan that would include ambulance service, Didier said.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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