WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) - A study of Wausau area fire and emergency medical services has been released. It examines how Wausau and surrounding municipalities may save money and improve future services.
Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple says the study provided data that Wausau and other communities can use to plan for the future. “They merge all of the data from the various communities on response time, equipment, and locations for fire and EMS services in the metro area, and one thing was to see if there were any synergies of whether you combine one or two all of them and assess the economic impact if there is any.”
Tipple says one part of the study examined Wausau’s fire station locations. “We wanted to know if we either refurbished our west side fire department or built a new one, and we have land that we’ve already purchased on the west side very close to where our current fire station is, is that the best location or should it be located in another area, not only for protective services in the city, but how does that merge potentially with all of the fire stations in the metropolitan area.”
The Mayor says the study helps plan so they can maintain fast response times to emergencies, which residents have said is very important. “Our goal, and we attain it, is we want to be on site of any emergency whether it’s fire or EMS in five minutes or less. A lot of parts of our community, we can get there in two-and-a-half or three minutes.”
Consolidation is a common topic for municipalities these days, but it’s not always popular. Years ago, Everest Metro Police Department was formed by consolidating Weston and Schofield police. Just recently, a proposal to add Rothschild police was defeated by the Village Board. Weston and Rib Mountain are moving ahead with a combined fire district, but there are opponents to that, too.
Tipple says the study outlined possible scenarios for combining fire and EMS districts, which local leaders can discuss. “They gave various scenarios, I believe there were five, and it just gives you some food for thought and some starting points for discussion.”
The survey concluded there would not likely be a large savings by consolidating all five districts, but the improvement in service delivery through the elimination of municipal boundaries would be immeasurable. Tipple says that is why the study recommends exploring cooperative efforts, such as equipment purchasing. “There’s five aerials in the metro area, and we could get by with probably two, but there’s five, so there’s a lot of duplication and aerials are not cheap. Ours almost cost us a million dollars. A million dollars is a lot of money to spend for smaller communities to keep up the response time and their level of service.”
The findings of the study will be presented to the Wausau City Council Thursday, September 19th. Area municipal leaders have been invited to attend.