Wheatland fire chief and town chairman argue at meeting

An update on how contracted rescue service were working for Wheatland residents devolved into a heated exchange between fire Chief Lou Denko and town Chairman Bill Glembocki at Monday’s Town Board meeting.

On the meeting agenda was a report from Chief Stan Clause Jr., Twin Lakes Fire and Rescue, on how contracting for emergency medical services for the whole town from Twin Lakes Rescue was working.

Before 2019, Wheatland had been contracting for EMS from Silver Lake Rescue Squad for the eastern part of the town and from Twin Lakes Rescue for the balance of the town. After Silver Lake Rescue closed its doors as of Jan. 1. Wheatland contracted for Twin Lakes Rescue to serve the whole town.

Clause said Monday he felt the arrangement was going fine for his organization despite the added territory and call volume. His department did acquire a third ambulance to help deal with the additional call volume.

“Everything’s been going quite well,” Clause said. “We’re working well together. It hasn’t put a large burden on us.”

Besides Twin Lakes, Twin Lakes Rescue also serves Randall for emergency medical services.

Besides Twin Lakes Rescue, Wheatland based first responders also respond to medical calls in the town.

Twin Lakes EMS personnel are currently paid on call, but Clause said in the near future the plan is to move to staffing some shifts with personnel at the station in Twin Lakes.

Clause also praised the first responders system for providing vital help to his crews.

After Clause finished his report and took a few questions from the audience and board, Denko said he had something to say.

“I find it highly disappointing that since I am the fire chief of Wheatland that the board didn’t ask me how it’s going,” Denko said. He added that he felt Twin Lakes Rescue covering the whole town was going well, though he had some concerns mostly about large events.

Denko said he felt inviting Clause to the meeting was an attempt to show that a proposal for a new fire station was too large for including space for a ambulance based there.

Glembocki said he told Denko about inviting Clause to address the board and that he understood Denko to be OK with it.

“I talked to you about it and you were all fine with it,” Glembocki said.

Denko said he was not OK with it.

Glembocki defended bringing Clause to the meeting.

“I just wanted people in this community to know that we are there for them,” Glembocki said “We contract out to Twin Lakes, I wanted to know how they feel about it.”

Denko contended he could have provided that feedback as the town’s fire chief.

“There’s no one in this room more experienced with EMS than me,” Denko said.

Denko and some members of the town board have been clashing over a proposal backed by the department leadership for a new fire station. A plan put together by a committee of department leadership, town Supervisor Kelly Wilson and representatives of Scherrer Construction called for a new building with an estimated cost of $3.9 million. Glembocki and Lois have called the price tag too high. Denko contends the proposal could last the department for 50 years, including expansion of services needed with local growth.

The last of four public informational meetings on the new fire department plans is scheduled to be held Saturday at 9 a.m. at the current firehouse, 34011 Geneva Road, New Munster.

The proposed new fire station plans are available here.


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