fire department options

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.