Town of Geneva awaiting decision on fire services
Geneva Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale said he hopes to know by the end of January whether Lake Geneva will accept terms of a new fire protection contract.
The town’s contract with the city for fire services expired at the end of 2010, but Lake Geneva is providing coverage while negotiations continue.
The town and city have been at odds over ambulance and fire services since late 2010. Lauderdale said Lake Geneva first proposed a contract that included a $20,000 retainer plus a $1,000 fee for each fire response.
The proposal initially included ambulance services, too, but that changed when some city officials wanted the town to be responsible for collecting delinquent bills, saying Lake Geneva was no longer willing to bear the financial burden, Lauderdale said.
Lauderdale researched other ambulance options, eventually signing a three-year agreement with Paratech—a private rescue services provider used in nine southern Wisconsin counties.
“Paratech has the highest level of EMS training available,” Lauderdale said. “The town of Geneva is fortunate that we have both medical facilities located in the town so we have them available to us at all times.”
Scott Storms, president of the Lake Geneva Police and Fire Commission, said the city had been ready to agree to the town’s terms before Lauderdale signed with Paratech.
Storms didn’t agree the decision to partner with a private ambulance service was a good one. He said businesses such as Paratech operate for profit, while Lake Geneva’s service only wants to help residents, regardless of financial gain.
“Three years ago, I rewrote the contract because I thought we were hurting Geneva Township,” Storms said. “It was too much.
“We’re just going to do what’s right for the community, and that’s why we continue to cover them (with fire protection).”
Since the rescue services contract expired Dec. 31, Lauderdale said the town has had 10 to 15 incidents requiring Paratech’s assistance.
Paratech covers more ground than Lake Geneva had covered. Elkhorn previously was providing service to Geneva National Resort, but Paratech took that over at no extra cost.
Elkhorn is dealing with its own problems, carrying about $469,000 in uncollected rescue services bills over the last three years. Lauderdale believes if municipalities contracted with a private service, it would help solve many of their financial problems.
For the town of Geneva, finding an alternative for fire coverage won’t be as easy. If the town doesn’t come to terms on a fire contract with Lake Geneva, it would have to work out an aid agreement with Elkhorn, Williams Bay or Lyons Township, Lauderdale said.
That would significantly slow response times, he said.
Lauderdale said he reached out to Lake Geneva and informed officials he’s willing to accept fire contract the terms proposed last spring. A decision could come within the next two weeks.
Storms said discussions at this point are about “operational control” and not about money.