Janesville55°

Towns consider paid-on-premise fire and rescue

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Kayla Bunge
October 14, 2008
— Fontana and Walworth should work together to create three full-time firefighter/EMT positions to cover the villages during daytime hours, according to a study committee recommendation.

The full-time firefighters would supplement volunteer firefighters and EMTs, who would continue to respond to calls in their respective villages, according to the Ad Hoc Joint Services Committee recommendation made Monday night.


The committee for almost a year has been exploring consolidation of services between the two villages. The committee concluded that simply combining fire and EMS services in the two villages wouldn’t work.


“At this point, consolidation is not the answer,” said Chris Severt, emergency services director in Walworth.


He said there aren’t enough volunteer firefighters or EMTs to efficiently respond to fire and rescue calls in both villages during peak hours.


There are 29 firefighters and 15 EMTs in Fontana and 30 firefighters and 13 EMTs in Walworth. The four entities responded to 1,474 calls in 2006 and 2007, more than half of which came between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.


“It’s getting harder and harder to maintain coverage for (both villages) during the day,” Severt said. “We can’t pull any more people from Fontana to respond to Walworth when they don’t have enough people and vice versa. Pulling from the same membership numbers doesn’t help.”


That’s why the ad hoc committee is proposing the villages move to a paid-on-premise operation, in which three emergency responders would staff the fire station in either Fontana or Walworth weekdays during daytime hours, about 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., to respond to calls.


Two positions would be full-time with benefits, and one position would be full-time without benefits and filled by firefighters and EMTs from both villages on a rotating basis, Severt said. Volunteer firefighters and EMTs would continue to respond to calls in their respective villages.


“This would ensure we have people in our communities at all times,” he said. “We’re not sending these people out on mutual aid calls. These people will be handling our calls first.”


Severt estimated the annual cost of paid-on-premise staffing at almost $168,000. He said it could be paid for with increased revenue from EMS billing, a portion of fire dues and grants, among other means.


Fontana Trusteee George Spadoni said the impact on property taxpayers would be marginal.


“This is a life and death issue,” he said. “What price do you put on a life?”


Severt said Fontana and Walworth residents have come to expect a high level of fire and rescue services.


Paid-on-premise operation would guarantee basic response during the day, when the least number of responders are available.


“We feel this is the only way to keep up that level of service for both communities,” he said.



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