Lake Country Fire and Rescue holding open houses ahead of referendum

NOW: Lake Country Fire and Rescue holding open houses ahead of referendum

DELAFIELD, Wis. (CBS 58) -- With the crucial statewide race for Supreme Court Justice just over a week away, many people will see local races for positions like state Senate, mayor and various referendums.

Residents in the City and Town of Delafield will be deciding whether or not a fire and rescue fee should be added to people's residential property tax.

Lake Country Fire and Rescue officials say it's all about decreasing response times when your family is in trouble.

"Since about a year ago, we've seen a strong decline in our part-time and paid on-call workforce," said Lake Country Fire and Rescue Chief Matthew Fennig.

He says it's an issue many fire departments are seeing, qualified part timers taking full-time jobs elsewhere.

Chief Fennig says the problem for Lake Country is they don't have the resources to hire more full-time employees. Meaning, sometimes, stations like the City of Delafield Fire Station, where they held an open house for residents today, are closed.

"And those full-time people are more expensive than part time people. So, this is covering the gap so we can keep the stations open," said Chief Fennig.

If passed, Chief Fennig says they'll be able to hire more full-time first responders. Meaning, faster response times.

He says just last Friday, they faced a situation where the city fire station was closed when someone needed help.

"So, this station is closer than that station by four minutes, but it was closed. So, the crew had to come from the Town of Delafield, which resulted in a 15-and-a-half-minute response time for emergency medical incident," said Chief Fennig.

A situation he says no one wants to be in and could mean life or death.

Delafield City Administrator Tom Hafner says if passed, property taxes would go down $39 per $100,000. But a $450 fire and rescue fee would be added.

"In the City of Delafield, it would become kind of a net increase of $255," said Hafner.

That would be around $142 for Town of Delafield residents.

"If [residents] are comfortable with where we're at now, which is kind of an average of a 12-minute response time for EMS calls, it would be reasonable for people to vote no," said Hafner. "But if they would like us to increase staffing so that we can pursue more standardized response times about eight or nine minutes per call, then it would make sense to vote yes for this referendum."

Chief Fennig says if you have more questions to give them a call or come out to one of their open houses this week.

"We're more than happy to get together for coffee and discuss what's really going on so they have the facts. We want people to make informed decisions if they haven't already on April 4", said Chief Fennig.

If you want to go to one of these open houses, there will be one from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the city's fire station. There will also be another one at the same time on Wednesday at the Town of Delafield's fire station.

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