Merging Silver Lake fire and rescue departments discussed

Exploring the merging of the Silver Lake Fire Department and the Silver Lake Rescue Squad into one entity to strengthen fire and rescue services for the future was the recommendation of most members of an ad hoc committee to the Silver Lake  Village Board Tuesday night.

The ad hoc committee on fire service, made up of experienced fire and rescue workers, was created by Albrecht in October and started meeting last month. Tuesday was the committee’s first meeting with the Village Board.

Committee members explained that the group’s initial  discussions uncovered a merger between the two departments as a beneficial course to study. All members said that both departments currently provide good services.

“What we’re proposing is not new,” said committee member Greg Galich. “It’s happening all around us.”

Committee members were especially positive about the Rescue Squad, pointing out that the squad now has staffing at its station during daytime hours. If rescue members were cross trained with firefighters and vice versa, response could be greatly improved in the Silver Lake service area regardless of what the situation was — emergency medical or fire — several committee members suggested.

While most committee members recommended the exploration of a merger, one member admitted to being conflicted — Andy McFarlane, assistant chief of both the fire department and rescue squad.

“I’m very torn,” said McFarlane. “I love both sides. I’m not really sure if I want to see consolidation or a merger. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt. I don’t want any animosity.”

The next step for the process was not entirely clear Tuesday night. Some committee members and at least one audience member suggested the next step is to see if the rescue squad, a private corporation separate from the village government, wants to consider a merger. The fire department, by contrast, is in effect owned by the village government.

But Albrecht insisted the full Village Board needs to discuss the issue and set a framework for further action. The board has its next regular meeting tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Only four of the seven board members attended Tuesday’s meeting, which was a Committee of the Whole meeting of the board. Attending Tuesday were Albrecht, Sue Gerber, Sotiria Wilbur and Patrick Dunn. Absent were Michael Decker, Barbara Ironside and Chris Willkomm.

Albrecht said in setting up the committee that the financial challenges of the fire department was part of his rationale for setting up the committee. But committee members held up little chance for short-term savings from the proposed merger. Instead, they said the merger would make for a stronger and better department for the future and perhaps savings down the line.

“You’re probably not going to save,” Galich said “You’re going to strengthen the service.” A key part of this strength would be the ability to fend off takeover attempts by other departments. However, some costs savings might be achieved through eliminating some duplication of tasks. Some new revenue might be realized from billing insurance companies for fire services, as rescue already does for medical services.

The meeting started with short introductions of the ad hoc committee members:

  • Gary Galich, a former officer with the Kenosha Fire Department and fire instructor at Gateway Technical College.
  • Kerrie Molter, a longtime officer with the Genoa City-Bloomfield Fire and Rescue Department.
  • Andrew McFarlane, Silver Lake Fire Department assistant chief and Silver Lake Rescue Squad assistant chief.
  • Kyle Stoxen, captain, Silver Lake Fire Department.
  • Bill Erb, retired member of the Silver Lake Rescue Squad.
  • Richard Bosanko, former officer with the Kenosha Fire Department and other departments.
  • Phil Johnson, a Kenosha Fire Department lieutenant and former Randall Fire Department chief.


  1. Andrew J says:

    So pretty much it’s another government takeover of another thriving PRIVATE NON-PROFIT company in Silver Lake. I’ve talk to several Silver Lake Rescue members and they have no interest merging with a government entity. However many of them feel that they are being “forced” down this path because the village needs to makeup that $40,000 they are short on ticket revenue. Let us destroy a private company and take the money they use to maintain their ambulances, pay their employee’s and maintain the property and building. Silver Lake Fire is broken, so let’s merge it with a successful company and bring it down to the same level over time… Since Wisconsin is in the recall mode, how about we work together and setup an ad-hoc committee to recall the village President!!

  2. Andy J says:

    Don’t confuse me with that guy up there, trying to hide behind everyone elses name….

  3. Jeff Albrecht says:

    The goal is not to bring down either Fire or Rescue but rather to benefit both long term. If anyone thinks in this economic climate that bigger, better cheaper alternatives aren’t going to be a threat to BOTH of these departments, doubters just don’t understand the reality of today’s world, or perhaps don’t want to.
    The ultimate goal is to have better and stronger services for the residents of Silver Lake, period. In addition the committee/board will be offering not only plans for survival, but plans to grow with a long term plan for 5 – 10 – 15 years from now. In that case, we will be in control of what happens, not the ever-changing winds of the economic climate.
    That is something that I hope that we can all agree upon is a good strategy.

  4. Matt says:

    I’m game with whatever makes Silver Lake stronger. Lets all just hope for the best here.

  5. It has to get better says:

    To “Andrew J”, you sound MUCH like the person in an earlier post with “Hartnel” as the name, verbage and opinions when writing. You should probably approach ALL rescue members & then publish your comments, because you certainly missed a few members that completely disagree with your statements. There are a few members that frown upon a merger, only because they are afraid to lose their status with power and title at rescue. That fact is nothing new. There are a few that are MORE THAN WILLING to merge, as long as the common goal is to improve services to the community, and that’s all a merger should ever concern. Worrying about individual status’ with titles and positions of power is unfortunately what those members against the merger are thinking about. It’s not just fire that’s broken, rescue is very broken, so don’t criticize just fire. I hope there’s a bright light at the end of this tunnel, because navigating through dark tunnel’s has to come to an end.

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