fire department options

Posted by Scott Crevier • Sunday, July 13, 2014 11:41PM
City Council meeting, City Happenings
We’re in the process of figuring out what to do with our Fire Dept. I want to provide an update on my thoughts, so let’s start with a timeline of facts:
Apr 2013 Fire Dept Chief Bob Kiser retired.
Mar 5, 2013 De Pere City Council approved a contract to hire Jeff Roemer of RW Management to run the department on a temporary basis, Apr 1, 2013 thru Dec 31, 2013 ($9000/month, 4 days week).
Jun 18, 2013 De Pere City Council approved a contract to hire RW Management to perform organizational and consolidation feasibility report ($15,000). This will help us figure out if we want to simply hire a new Fire Chief or enter into some kind of consolidation with another department (or other possible options).
Oct 15, 2013 De Pere City Council approved a six-month extension of RW Management contract through June 30, 2014.
Nov 5, 2013 Fire Chief Jeff Roemer presented his Fire Dept Organizational and Consolidation Analysis Report to the De Pere City Council. It contains numerous recommendations including sharing the cost of future fire equipment purchases with neighboring departments (p 2.12), expanding training to include neighboring departments (p 2.15), functional consolidations with Green Bay Metro Fire Department to share services like administration, prevention, operations, technical rescue, water/ice rescue, standards of coverage (p 2.18).
Nov 19, 2013 De Pere City Council discussed Fire Dept Organizational and Consolidation Feasibility Analysis Report with Chief Roemer. He would like to explore certain functional consolidations with the Green Bay Metro Fire Department.
Apr 3, 2014 Green Bay Fire Chief Litton explained the situation to the Green Bay Police/Fire Commission. Among other things, he said, “We’re going to be meeting with De Pere in a workshop type session in a couple of weeks to present to them the idea of administering their department to begin with, over a period of the next 6 months as kind of a probationary period of easing in, to show them what we can actually do and how we can do it and how we can make it work for them, with the end point of making it look like an Allouez-type consolidation.”
Apr 23, 2014 Green Bay Fire Chief Litton attended a meeting with De Pere City Council to discuss the options. Though he said he’d be willing to consider a functional consolidation, he would only do that on a temporary basis, 2 years maximum. He reiterated his desire for full consolidation.
May 20, 2014 City Council approved another 6-month extension of RW Management contract through December 31, 2014

Before I continue, I want to clear up the term “full consolidation”. This term has been used by various people in this process, and it’s important to understand Green Bay’s definition. Consolidation to them means we dissolve the De Pere Fire Department, and we contract with the Green Bay Metro Fire Department for their services. In such an arrangement, they would likely hire our firefighters and acquire our equipment and buildings (or the use thereof). As Green Bay Chief Litton said on April 3, it would be “like an Allouez-type consolidation.”

This brings us to the June 17, 2014 city council meeting a couple of weeks ago, where Chief Roemer asked for permission to pursue possible functional consolidations with Green Bay Metro Fire Department. I don’t feel that this recommendation makes sense. To summarize, there are only three possible ways to go with our Fire Department:

  1. Hire a new Fire Chief, keep our own department (like we’ve always had).
  2. Consolidate certain services/functions with another department.
  3. Dissolve the De Pere Fire Department and contract with another department for services.

Note that options 2 and 3 above require that we have a willing partner; we would need another neighboring department who is willing to work with us. There are no such departments willing to do #2, however Chief Roemer is requesting that we do just that. Green Bay Chief Litton said more than once that they would want a full consolidation (option #3) and that’s it. He said that they’d consider some functional consolidation temporarily (he told the Green Bay Police and Fire Commission 6 months), but it would have to lead to full consolidation.

When we hired a temporary fire chief, we did so to give us the opportunity to figure out what we want to do with our fire department long term. We should not be trying a temporary solution that would bring temporary savings or efficiencies like #2. We’ve already been in this temporary state for well over a year, we’ve already extended our temporary contract with Chief Roemer twice, we need to move forward with a permanent long-term solution. Our citizens and firefighters deserve a solution.

So, at the June 17, 2014 city council meeting, I made a motion that we do not accept Chief Roemer’s recommendation, and instead ask him to provide a comparison between hiring a new fire chief (option #1) and doing a full consolidation with Green Bay (option #3). My motion failed because no other alderperson seconded it. So we voted on Chief Roemer’s original request to pursue a 6-month functional consolidation with Green Bay. That motion passed 4-3, with Bauer, Boyd, Kneiszel, and Rafferty voting in favor, and Crevier, Donovan, and Raasch voting nay (Lueck was absent).

I certainly respect my colleagues and the democratic process, and this is our plan. Chief Roemer will go to Green Bay with a plan for a 6 month functional consolidation.

If this goes through, then after six months, we’re right back where we started, and we’ll need to choose option #1 or option #3, and we will have lost another 6 months of time.

UPDATE 7/16/2014: we decided to hire a new fire chief.

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should we allow more hunting in the city?

Posted by Scott Crevier • Saturday, March 29, 2014 1:48PM
City Happenings

We’ll be voting on a change to city ordinance on Wednesday, April 2 (regular Tuesday meeting moved to Wednesday due to the election on Tuesday) that would allow the discharge of firearms in certain outying areas of the city. I’d like to hear feedback from De Pere residents on this. If we allow it, we can also place whatever restrictions would seem reasonable. These are the restrictions under consideration:

  1. The property upon which the discharge is to occur is contiguous and adjacent to property in a neighboring community upon which the discharge of firearms is permitted.
  2. The property upon which discharge is to occur is not platted and located in a R-1, Single Family Residence District or Conservancy District.
  3. Written permission of the property owner must be obtained.
  4. Shotguns only are allowed to be discharged; slugs as ammunition are prohibited.
  5. Discharge less than 100 yards from any structure, public park or trail and less than 50 yards from the centerline of any roadway is prohibited.

About the restrictions, #1 basically says that if your property buts up against land in Rockland or Ledgeview (or other municipality) and they allow hunting, then it would be okay on your land. #4 basically rules out gun deer hunting. We don’t have to use all of the above restrictions, and of course we can add more if they are appropriate.

This request was brought forward by Bob Janssen, who owns a 120 acre farm at 3234 Old Janssen Trail. I visited him today to see his land and talk about the issue. He doesn’t hunt any more, but he’d like to allow his family to hunt turkeys.

If you’d like more details about this issue, the agenda packet for Wednesday’s meeting contains Mr. Janssen’s original letter, a memo from city staff, along with maps and diagrams that show the affected area.

De Pere municipal code 8-2(a)(2) already allows for the discharge of firearms “for use in the hunting of migratory birds and waterfowl in that portion of the Fox River contiguous to unincorporated areas which allow hunting, and in accordance with state regulations.” So we already have this small exception to our ordinance about the discharge of firearms. I’ve heard from two residents in the past two years who don’t like this though. They are just not comfortable with hearing gunshots in our city.

I don’t yet know how I’ll vote on Wednesday. If you’re a De Pere resident, I’d like to hear from you. Please comment here, or contact me directly and let me know how you feel. And if you’re available, please consider attending Wednesday’s meeting to share your thoughts with the entire council.

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homelessness is here, in De Pere

Posted by Scott Crevier • Wednesday, January 29, 2014 9:50PM
City Happenings

I attended a presentation tonight by Tony Pichler, a De Pere resident, employee of the Diocese of Green Bay, and chair of the St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter board of trustees. Tony spoke about homelessness and how it affects us right here in De Pere. We all have our views and ideas of what homelessness looks like, but I find it interesting to focus on the kids.

Did you know that for the current 2013-14 school year, there are 29 students in De Pere who are homeless? For our neighbors to the north, the Green Bay School District has 700!! Ashwaubenon has 80. Strangely, I think when you look at that staggering number for Green Bay, the 29 here in De Pere doesn’t seem too bad. But let’s not fool ourselves. As I write this, it’s 9:45pm, and there are 29 kids here in our community who do not have a home tonight. 29. These are classmates of our children. These are our children. Our families.

By telling you this, I don’t have any answers or profound message to offer. I just want to make sure that we’re all aware that homelessness is not just someone else’s problem. Each of these 29 kids has a story. Each has hopes and dreams. And those stories and hopes and dreams are not all that different than those of your kids.

Just think about all the challenges that we face as we work with our own children, to help them with their homework, their friendships, their after-school activities and other typical kid problems. Think about that process from the perspective of your child and how tough things can be at times. Okay, now imagine if your child had no home. For me, it’s not easy to think about, but it’s real.

So let’s just keep these children and their families in mind as we go about our daily business. What can we do to help? Think about how we, as a city, can help to take care of each other.

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improvements coming for Grant, Suburban, and Apollo

Posted by Scott Crevier • Monday, January 13, 2014 7:34PM
City Happenings

In the last year or so, several constituents have contacted me with concerns about pedestrian safety at the intersection of Grant St, Suburban Dr, and Apollo Way. It’s an unusual intersection where, depending on traffic, it can be difficult for a driver to see a pedestrian. The son of one of my neighbors was almost hit by a car (with a crossing guard right there). That same neighbor also saw a child on a bicycle hit a car who failed to stop. I also occasionally walk through that intersection on my way to and from work, and I’ve experienced vehicles who failed to yield.

The first problem is that drivers are simply not obeying the law. In Wisconsin, drivers must yield to pedestrians (Wis. Stat. § 346.23). Additionally, if a driver is stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the street, another car coming from behind is not allowed to pass. This intersection frequently has a “yield to pedestrians” sign in the middle of the road, and there is also a crossing guard there to assist people before and after school. But these efforts are not enough. The intersection needs more than that.

I’ve been talking to Eric Rakers, our city engineer, to see what more we can do about the issue. He’s been discussing it within our Public Works department and with our Parking and Traffic Team. Grant St is a county highway, so he’s also been working with the county to see what kinds of changes are possible to make the intersection safer.

intersection of Grant St, Suburban Dr, and Apollo Way

proposed intersection of Grant St, Suburban Dr, and Apollo Way

At the November 2013 meeting of the Board of Public Works, Eric presented a recommendation to reconfigure the intersection by adding bumpouts to limit the lanes of traffic. I think the new design is a good idea. The intersection is not only tricky to drive and walk through, but it’s also tricky to redesign, and I think the new idea will work well. If you’d like to hear Eric describe the changes, watch the meeting video; his description starts at 36 minutes into the meeting.

Unfortunately, the proposed improvements are not free. They will cost about $30,000, an amount that we do not have in our 2014 city budget. So, Eric is looking at some funding options. We should be able to split the cost with the county, and there may be traffic safety grants available. If we can’t get it done this year, then we’ll need to budget for it in 2015.

Regardless of when we’ll be able to do it, it’s still good to finally have a plan in place. I’ll keep you posted.

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