Silver Lake to pursue contract with Salem for fire and rescue services

silver-lake-fd-doorThe Silver Lake Village Board voted to pursue negotiations with Salem over contracting with Town of Salem Fire/Rescue to provide fire protection and emergency medical services to the village.

The 5-2 vote came after a contentious debate that included board members and the audience.

Trustee Roger Johnson voted against the motion. Trustee Carolyn Dodge, the Silver Lake Rescue Squad treasurer, initially voted against the motion but then changed to an abstention.

sl-rescue-squad-backVillage President Bruce Nopenz said trying to get the private rescue squad and village operated fire department to cooperate had been unsuccessful and it was time to try something else.

“It’s a problem on many different levels,” Nopenz said. “I believe there’s a better solution … We have two departments that don’t function well.”

Johnson urged giving the departments another shot at working out their differences. He also laid the blame for the recent dissension between the two departments firmly at the feet of former village President Jeff Albrecht.

Albrecht initiated the creation of an ad hoc committee to study the future of fire and EMS service in the village. The committee initially consisted of retired professional firefighters and representatives of the two Silver Lake departments. Ultimately the committee produced several alternatives for a way forward, but said the status quo — separate fire and rescue — was the least desirable.

salem-fd-door-2012Johnson blamed that process for changing the dynamic between the fire and rescue departments.

“They never had any problems with fire and rescue working together back then,” Johnson said.

Johnson was village president just before Albrecht was elected president, for a second set of terms.

Albrecht, in the audience, defended the ad hoc committee, saying it was an effort to determine the future of the shakey EMS/fire situation in the village.

“The report they did was first rate, top notch,” said Albrecht. “We wouldn’t be in the situation we are now if rescue had cooperated.”

When an audience member reacted to Albrecht’s remarks with a quiet spoken obscenity that was called out by people near him, an on-duty sheriff’s deputy in attendance said he would escort out anyone else who swore and possible issue them a disorderly conduct citation.

Dodge said she felt the issue has been approached by the village as one-sided in favor of the fire department.

But Nopenz brushed off calls for additional talks, saying the time had come to take action.

“There are not enough resources to fund these two departments the way they should,” Nopenz said.

This is not the first time the board has approached Salem for fire and EMS services. The board voted in Sept. 2013 to negotiate with Salem. The resulting proposal called for a initial yearly fee of about $100,000. Further consideration of that agreement stalled when a citizen initiative placed a referendum on the issue on the Nov. 2014 ballot. The referendum seeking to ban the village from contracting with Salem for fire and EMS failed No 638 to Yes 474.


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