Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Does Germantown Need A Full-Time Fire Department?

Germantown, Taxes, Village Board

The recent discussions concerning our fire department brings to mind the question posed above, and in the new GermantownNOW poll found in the right-hand column of this page by scrolling down from this Blog.

In 2002, a study commissioned by the village to evaluate and make recommendations about the fire department was done by a private company named Tri-Data.  That company found that there were still 'feelings' amongst some members about the take-over of the department from the Germantown Fire Company some years earlier.  It also made some recommendations and did a comparison of Germantown's department to those of seven other similarly-sized communities in Wisconsin.

Among the recommendations were:

  • the frequency of calls and the growth of the village indicate the need for additional full-time staff.
  • the village should consider staffing at least one of the engines 24 hours per day.
  • having four personnel on the first arriving unit makes it possible to start interior operations immediately upon arrival.

The study found response times of about 6 minutes during the day and slightly less than fourteen minutes at night.  This contrast was due to the fact that full-time respondents were on duty during the day while night calls were delayed as paid on call volunteers responded to the fire call and got to the scene.  As an aside, I'm told that a fire doubles in magnitude every minute; that suggests that a 14 minute response time would see a fire of 256 times greater magnitude than a 6 minute response.  These are very real 'life and death' issues and not just numbers.

I am unaware of anything having been done with this study's results although I may've not been privy to things simply as a member of the public.

In 2005, members of the fire department prepared a proposal for the village's consideration and sought to have the public vote on the recommendations through a referendum.  The referendum never occurred.  The recommendation followed the study's conclusions and sought approval to hire an additional 18 full-time firefighters/EMTs.  This would've allowed for three 24 hour full-time shifts seven days per week that would've assured a 4 person Engine Company and a 2 person Ambulance crew on duty at all times.  The volunteers would've still been required to augment these crews, but the initial respondents would've been able to enter a building for purposes of rescue, for example, in the seventh minute rather than the fifteenth minute.

The cost of the 18 full-time members was estimated to be about $75,000 each for a total budget impact of $1.35 million dollars.  At the time, that amounted to a rate of $0.72 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.  If your home were worth $250,000, the tax impact would've been about $180.  Not included was the fact that fire insurance rates would be expected to fall thus mitigating the tax increase somewhat.  Property loss would've likely been reduced with faster response times, and safety factors would've been increased significantly.

The study, as mentioned, compared eight similarly-sized communities (populations ranging from 16,000 to 20,000 people).  It found that these communities averaged 29 full-time employees.  Germantown pulled that average down considerably since it had four at the time.  Our population today is at about 19,400 people.

Do you think we should at least review the possibility of a full-time staffing increase?  Should Germantown citzens be essentially assured of a 6 minute response time 24 hours per day and 7 days per week?

Vote in the poll; let your thoughts be known.

Comment on this Blog.

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