The city of Milton has asked the Wisconsin Policy Forum to evaluate the city’s fire and EMS options and cost-sharing alternatives as the city weighs whether to consolidate fire services with Janesville.

The Milton City Council on Wednesday approved a proposal from the organization—a statewide, nonpartisan policy research group—and authorized paying up to $7,650 for the evaluation.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum has analyzed fire and EMS delivery challenges for dozens of fire departments in Wisconsin. Its study could begin as soon as April 12, and a written report will be delivered by July 1.

The city and town of Milton jointly operate the Milton Fire Department. Earlier this year, the two municipalities had discussed a draft agreement to consolidate with Janesville’s fire department, but the town of Milton now is considering other alternatives, including forging a relationship with nearby Edgerton.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum will look specifically at two models the Milton City Council chose March 31: a city-only consolidation with Janesville and a city standalone fire department.

City council member Theresa Rusch said the independent analysis will be more objective than what the council could provide.

“We get all of our emotions involved,” she said.

City council member Larry Laehn clarified that the city is paying for the analysis, not the fire department, which is shared by the city and town.

The evaluation will include a review and possible refinement of the city’s preliminary fire staffing and service assumptions and its fiscal analysis of the two choices. The organization also will consider whether other viable staffing and service options exist.

The second part of the proposal will look at possible cost sharing.

“That may be moot depending on how things move forward,” said Milton City Administrator Al Hulick. “Nonetheless, I think it’s important to have that type of analysis done.”

The Wisconsin Policy Forum will collect data on the fire department’s finances, staffing, equipment and operations from the fire chief and city staff. It also will collect some data on the Janesville Fire Department and conduct interviews with officials from both cities.

Hulick said he didn’t know if the organization would talk to town of Milton officials.

He said battalion chiefs at the Milton Fire Department support the analysis.

“I think it’s another example of the city of Milton being very thoughtful on what we’re doing—not flying by the seat of our pants, going at warp speed, with seemingly no goal in mind at the end other than to do something different,” he said.

“We’re being very thoughtful about this. We’re being very transparent about it, doing it in open session, and it’s another example I believe should be viewed as building trust with the community.”

He said the Wisconsin Policy Forum recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to public safety.


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