TOWN OF BELOIT
Negotiations will continue between the town of Beloit and city of Janesville on potentially sharing fire department resources and a fire chief.
After about 40 minutes of closed-session discussion Monday, the town board approved a memorandum of understanding to allow negotiations to proceed.
“I’m happy that the board is looking into this for the future. They’re looking into the greater good of the community instead of just what we’re doing right now,” said Gene Wright, who is retiring as the town’s fire chief and administrator in October.
The town explored multiple options for replacing its fire chief before approaching Janesville Fire Chief Ernie Rhodes about how a regional partnership could work, Wright said.
Rhodes met with the Town of Beloit Fire Chief Hiring Committee on Sept. 15 to discuss sharing resources countywide and other ideas, such as a command staff merger.
As the number of paid-on-call firefighters dwindles nationwide, fire departments—the town department included—are going back to the drawing board to identify new organizational models for delivering fire services, Wright said.
If negotiations are not completed when Wright retires Oct. 9, he said the town board likely will select an interim fire chief until negotiations are finished.
Wright said he has faith that the town’s fire department has many able leaders who could carry out his duties until final decisions are made.
It is unclear when a final decision might be reached. No formal offers have been extended yet, Wright said.
It has not been determined whether a contract would include payment to the city of Janesville, Janesville Fire Department or directly to Rhodes if he is asked to become the town’s fire chief, Wright said.
Wright said he has spoken with multiple fire department leaders in the Rock County area—including Beloit—in recent years, and they share a belief that partnerships are critical to local fire service.
He said an existing vehicle response agreement has proved successful and that no department is being counted out of a possible regional partnership.