Town chairman suggests fire departments explore merger
Plymouth Town Chairman Larry Harding thinks the two departments should discuss merging their fire districts.
He first brought up the idea more than a year ago, and he’s trying to get the discussion going again.
“It’s going to take a two- or three-year project of details and so on to work it out, but you need to plant the seed, and you need to keep the seed in the ground in order to make it grow,” he said.
Fire officials in the communities either declined to comment or expressed concern about the consequences of merging.
“I think it’s hopeful wishing, but I don’t really know how we’re going to do it,” Footville Chief Joe North said.
He is concerned that response times would increase.
Harding has a foot in each department as a member of each district’s fire commission because his township has fire coverage from both departments. He cited the requirement that each district buy expensive new digital radios for a county upgrade next year as an example of duplicate costs.
Combining services is being discussed and promoted across the country as a way to cut costs, he said.
If the departments merged, the main department could be in Footville and a substation in Newark Township for quicker response times in the rural southwestern corner of Rock County, he said.
Each department has one full-time person. If they worked out of the same station, an ambulance could leave as soon as a call came in rather than waiting for another person to show up, he said.
Orfordville Fire Chief Jim Ponkaukas and Dave Grenawalt, president of the fire commission in Orfordville and Newark town chairman, didn’t have much to say about the idea until it’s on an agenda.
“I don’t know where it’s going,” Grenawalt said. “It’s entirely up to the chiefs to get this going. After that, the fire commissions get involved.”
When the idea was explored in the past, “in my opinion, it was kind of inconclusive that there really was any money to be saved,” said Gary Selck, Footville village president and chairman of its fire commission.
No formal study or vote was taken when the idea first was proposed.
“The problem I see with it (is there would) have to be money spent up front to get things set up,” Selck said. “We don’t really have the money right now to spend.
“We always want to provide better service to the people in the district. That’s the main thing,” he said.
Federal grants could provide the boost needed to get a project going, Harding said.
He brought the merger idea up to the Footville commission, and he said he’s considering requesting a joint meeting between to the two commissions and chiefs.