Janesville fire crews respond to a residential fire at an apartment complex.


The Janesville City Council today will consider under its consent agenda a functional merger between the Janesville and Milton fire departments.

If the council approves the measure, Janesville Fire Chief Ernie Rhodes will have the authority to streamline operations between the two departments and “align both fire departments as one,” according to a memo to the council.

The fire departments have been operating under a shared services agreement since 2017, meaning both departments have access to each other’s resources.

The two departments also have shared a fire chief in that time, first with Chief Randy Banker and then Rhodes since 2019.

The Milton Fire Department operates under a joint fire commission with members from the city and town of Milton, two separate municipalities.

Janesville received about $55,000 a year to pay for Rhodes’ salary as part of the shared services agreement, according to the memo.

The memo does not make clear how much the city of Milton and town of Milton each contribute toward the salary.

Rhodes has said several times fire services is becoming increasingly collaborative nationwide because of funding restraints, staffing concerns and demands for high-level service.

The city and town of Milton approved the merger late last year.

If approved, the merger would allow the department to do the following, according to the Milton Courier:

  • Merge command staff.
  • Establish a fire apparatus pool.
  • Standardize response guidelines.
  • Create consistent administrative policies.
  • Identify equipment for group purchasing.
  • Create a training division.
  • Create full- and part-time positions.

Consolidating the two departments “makes sense,” but there are still details to be worked out, according to the city memo.

The council will consider the merger Monday under its consent agenda, meaning no discussion or roll call vote is planned. A council member could choose to remove the item from consent, thus opening up the topic for discussion and a vote.