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Cooney awaits merger costs from Lake Country Fire and Rescue

Beguhn supports it, council members uncommitted

Jan. 16, 2013

City of Oconomowoc - While Public Safety Director Dave Beguhn thinks it might be a good idea to consolidate the Oconomowoc Fire Department with Lake Country Fire and Rescue (LCFR), two Common Council members appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach.

Beguhn said a consolidation of the departments offers the city an opportunity to improve the cost effectiveness of its fire and medical emergency services, although the initial annual costs might be higher than the city's existing Fire Department budget.

"If you are going to improve your level of service, if you are going to improve your response times, and if you are going to provide paramedic services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, you may have some increased costs," Beguhn said.

But he said some of those operating costs might be offset by lower capital costs and, in the long run, city taxpayers might experience cost savings through the consolidation.

So far the potential consolidation has not been discussed with the council, although Mayor James Daley and key staff members have met with representatives of LCFR, including the mayor of the City of Delafield and the village presidents from Chenequa and Nashotah.

Two Common Council members, Cathleen Slattery and Dave Nold, say it is too early to define their positions on the proposal.

"I am a numbers person. I want to see a budget. I want to see the costs, the possible savings, and so far we don't have those numbers yet," Slattery said.

She added there are several other hot issues the council is dealing with before considering the possible consolidation.

"The mayor pretty much drives the agenda. We are waiting for him and the staff. They may have consolidation on a back burner with the other hotter issues on the front burners," she said.

"I think it is in the very preliminary stage," added Nold, who also said he was awaiting cost estimates.

Nold said there could beeconomical and operational advantages to a consolidation. He said it might provide more cost-effective use of equipment and personnel and improve service levels, including providing the city with paramedic-level medical services.

However, Nold noted, the city has been in fire merger discussions before. About nine years ago, fire department merger talks between Oconomowoc and the City of Delafield were unsuccessful; more recent negotiations between the Summit Fire District and the City of Oconomowoc also failed.

"It seems that when we got into merger discussions in the past, the City of Oconomowoc was always expected to pay more. I hope that isn't the case here," he added.

Discussions regarding a consolidation began after Daley sent a letter to LCFR officials several months ago indicating the city wants full-time paramedic services and Daley hinted that a consolidation with LCFR, which has such services, may be the most cost-effective way to achieve that goal.

LCFR serves the City of Delafield as well as the villages of Chenequa and Nashotah and is also in consolidation discussions with the Town of Delafield and the Village of Hartland.

Oconomowoc Administrator Diane Gard is waiting for more details from LCFR regarding how much consolidation might cost the City of Oconomowoc. Gard said she will review those numbers with Daley.

Delafield Mayor Ed McAleer, Nashotah Village President Rich Lartz and Chenequa Village President Robert Foote Jr. have emphasized that for a consolidation to be successful, the operating and capital costs must be shared equitably among the communities.

McAleer and Lartz said they expect Daley to appoint three members to a consolidation committee after the city is presented with the latest cost estimates for consolidation.

Gard said she anticipates a decision either later this month or early in February whether Daley will appoint by himself, or seek council approval, of the three members to represent the city on the committee.

The committee is composed of three representatives each from the City and Town of Delafield and the villages of Nashotah, Chenequa and Hartland.

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