By LeAnn R. Ralph
BOYCEVILLE — About 20 residents from the Town of Sherman attended a meeting of the Boyceville Community Fire District Board to voice their concerns about the possibility of the entire Town of Sherman moving into the Menomonie rural fire district.
“I feel like we haven’t been told anything,” said one woman in the audience at the October 10 meeting of the Boyceville fire board.
Cory Green, Boyceville fire chief, said he and Gilbert Krueger, chair of the fire board and Boyceville village president, had gone to talk to the Menomonie fire chief, Jack Baus, after learning about the idea.
Currently, the northern part of the Town of Sherman is covered by the Boyceville fire department, and the southern part of the Town of Sherman is covered by the Menomonie fire department.
A discussion about putting the entire Town of Sherman into the Menomonie district started June 8, Green said.
“I heard it from my neighbor, and that’s the only reason I knew,” said a woman in the audience.
“My hands are tied,” Green said, adding he wanted residents in the Town of Sherman to know about the potential for the township to be in the Menomonie fire district.
People in the audience agreed there was “nothing wrong” with the Menomonie fire district but that they were happy being in the Boyceville fire district.
One person in the audience said she had always been under the assumption the entire Town of Sherman was in the Boyceville fire district but now knows it is not the case.
The distance from the closest fire department is what the homeowner’s insurance premiums are based upon, so Sherman residents should check with their insurance companies, Green said.
The homeowner’s insurance is, indeed, based upon how far the property is located from the fire department, said Paul Heifner, a resident in the Town of Sherman.
Anything beyond seven miles is considered to be in an “unprotected area,” he said, adding that his homeowner’s insurance would increase by $444 per year if his property were in the Menomonie fire district.
Heifner said his property would be 2.5 miles from the location of the proposed new fire station in Boyceville and that it is three miles from the existing fire station.
Ned Hahn, fire board representative from the Town of Hay River, wondered if the Sherman Town Board’s desire to change fire districts was based on cost, but Green said he did not know.
Two years ago, residents in the Town of Sherman approved a $2.4 million referendum to build a new fire station in Boyceville, Green said.
Residents in the Town of Sherman agreed to build a new fire station, but it was not for that amount of money, Heifner said.
Open meeting law
Several people at the meeting said they were concerned the Sherman Town Board had violated the state’s open meeting law regarding discussions about changing the fire district.
Anyone who is concerned about violations of the open meeting law should file a complaint with the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department, said Matt Feeney, director of the Boyceville ambulance service and also a Dunn County deputy.
Under state law, the local law enforcement agency, which would be a police department for a city or a village or the sheriff’s department for a township, must investigate complaints about violations of the state’s open meeting law and then turn in a report to the county’s district attorney.
The Dunn County district attorney takes violations of the open meeting law seriously, Feeney said.
People in the audience also wondered if there had been any mention of moving the ambulance service from Boyceville to Menomonie.
Feeney said it was his understanding the fire district was under consideration but not the ambulance district.
If the entire Town of Sherman is placed in the Menomonie fire district, it will create problems for the ambulance service, he said.
If the Boyceville ambulance service needed extrication equipment at a car accident in the Town of Sherman, the ambulance would have to wait for the extrication equipment to come from the fire station in downtown Menomonie rather than from Boyceville, Feeney said.
Feeney said if he asked for the Boyceville fire department to come rather than Menomonie if all of Sherman were moved into the Menomonie district, “I would be sticking my neck out.”
Firefighters in the Boyceville fire department are volunteers, but they have the same training as the firefighters in Menomonie and “are top notch. These are very competent firefighters,” Feeney said.
“It’s a big deal there are more firefighters,” Hahn said, referring to the fact that the number of people on the Boyceville fire department’s roster has increased over the past year.
Recently, eight firefighters showed up “in the middle of the day for an EMS assist,” Green said, noting that in the past few years, maybe only one or two firefighters would have been available to help during the day.
The Boyceville fire board has been working for a number of years toward building a new fire station, said Rich Monn, representative for the Town of Stanton.
“It’s not true that we are not open to options,” Monn said, adding the proposal for a new fire station is the most cost-effective to meet the needs of the district.
During earlier fire board meetings with representatives of Five Bugles Design, estimates of between $2 million and $3 million were given to the fire board to build a new fire station in Boyceville.
Later on, the Boyceville fire board set a budget for the new fire station of $1 million.
The estimate for the most recent design of the fire station offered by Dave Cihasky of Five Bugles was $1.5 million.
When fire board members said they had approved a budget of $1 million, Cihasky told them he had never said the new fire station would cost less than $1.5 million.
“The higher numbers are not coming from us. Those are not the true, actual numbers,” Hahn said.
The higher numbers were for different options, Monn said.
The higher numbers were what “the designers wanted. Not the fire board,” Hahn said.
The Menomonie rural fire district board reportedly planned to meet October 17 to take action on whether to accept the Town of Sherman into the Menomonie district.
Kelly Krause, a supervisor on the Sherman Town Board, attended the Boyceville fire board meeting October 10.
Usually Sherman Town Board member Charles Maves has attended the Boyceville fire board meetings.
Krause said Maves had called her late in the afternoon to say he had to attend another meeting that evening and asked if Krause would attend the fire board.
Krause said the Sherman Town Board had made a request to get the fiscal numbers from Menomonie to see about the cost and whether there would be a cost savings with the Menomonie fire district.
“We have to see the numbers to see if we are in favor or not in favor,” she said.
Feeney noted he had been a resident in the Town of Sherman at the time of the fire station referendum.
“I voted on the referendum. The township approved building a fire station. Now I am confused,” he said.
The Sherman Town Board wanted to see the numbers, Krause said.
The increased cost of homeowner’s insurance for residents in the Town of Sherman also should be considered, said one person in the audience.
The Sherman Town Board has approved moving the township into the Menomonie fire district, Heifner said.
Krause said it was her understanding the Sherman Town Board voted to get the numbers for the cost of the entire township being in the Menomonie fire district.
Sherman was able to get on the agenda for the Menomonie rural fire district board meeting because the town board was requesting to place the entire township into the Menomonie district, Green said.
The Sherman Town Board planned to meet October 18, and Heifner said he was planning to ask the town board to rescind the motion to join the Menomonie fire district.
“Please bring your questions to the meeting on Thursday,” Krause said, adding she was not trying to side-step the questions but that she had not understood it was a “yes” vote to leave the Boyceville fire district.
The fire district agreement signed by all the members of the Boyceville fire district requires 18 months of notice to leave the district, Feeney said.
The Town of Sherman owns a certain portion of the Boyceville fire department’s equipment, and if the town board moves the entire township into the Menomonie fire district, the Town of Sherman will not receive the money back that was paid toward equipment, he said.
According to the meeting minutes, the Sherman Town Board is paying an attorney to find out “how to get out against our wishes,” said Krueger, who also owns property in the Town of Sherman.
“I am concerned for the residents in Sherman,” Green said.