By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Menomonie fire chief says he would recommend against moving all of the Town of Sherman into the Menomonie Rural Fire District.
After conducting time studies, “it does not make sense” to place the entire Town of Sherman into the Menomonie rural district, said Jack Baus, Menomonie fire chief, at the annual meeting of the Menomonie Rural Fire District October 17.
The Town of Sherman currently is divided about half and half, with the northern half being in the Boyceville Community Fire District and the southern half being in the Menomonie Rural Fire District.
Dozens of Town of Sherman residents attended the Menomonie Rural Fire District’s annual meeting held at the north side fire station in Menomonie.
Frank Bammert, chair of the Menomonie rural fire board and chair of the Town of Menomonie, said the rural fire board did not initiate the proposal to take all of Sherman into the Menomonie district.
The possibility of putting the entire township into Menomonie has been a topic for discussion at the last several meetings of the Boyceville Community Fire District Board.
Cory Green, Boyceville fire chief, has said he could not determine whether the Town of Sherman or the Menomonie Rural Fire District had first broached the subject.
The loss of the northern half of the Town of Sherman would result in a loss of revenue for the Boyceville fire department.
The first communication came from the Town of Sherman, but the Menomonie Rural Fire District has not received an official request to move all of Sherman into the district, Bammert said at the October 17 meeting.
At a meeting of the Sherman Town Board October 18, Dan Fedderly, town chair, said the Menomonie Rural Fire District had first broached the subject.
Unless the Town of Sherman requests in writing to place all of the township in the Menomonie district, the Menomonie Rural Fire District Board will not vote on the issue, said Pete Prochnow, vice-president of the Menomonie Rural Fire District Board and chair of the Town of Red Cedar.
One person in the audience wanted to know about any potential advantages or disadvantages either to Menomonie or Boyceville.
Taking on the entire Town of Sherman would not be an advantage to Menomonie, Bammert said.
Operating a larger service area would cost more money, he said.
The City of Menomonie paid for building the north side fire station, known as Station 2, and while the rural fire district owns some of the fire fighting equipment, both city and rural fire apparatus may both respond to a fire in the northern part of Sherman, Bammert said.
Another person in the audience wanted to know how much Sherman contributes to the Menomonie Rural Fire District for the southern half of the township.
Sherman pays $6,500 per year, Bammert said.
Putting the entire Town of Sherman into the rural Menomonie fire district would cost Sherman another $6,500 annually for a total of $13,000, he said.
To put the amount into perspective, Bammert also listed the other municipalities in the rural district and the tax assessments they pay each year: Town of Dunn, $16,000; Village of Knapp, $4,100; Town of Lucas, $9,500; Town of Menomonie, $41,600; Town of Red Cedar, $33,800; Town of Spring Brook, $6,200; Town of Tainter, $39,200; and the Town of Weston, $2,100.
Another person noted that in 2011, all of the Town of Tainter was annexed into the Menomonie Rural Fire District.
Prior to the decision to change fire districts, part of Tainter was in the Colfax fire district and the other part was in the Menomonie Rural Fire District.
One person in the audience asked about the number of mutual aid calls in Tainter by the Colfax fire department in what was formerly part of the Colfax fire district.
Baus said he did not have those statistics on hand but estimated the Colfax fire department might make four to six mutual aid runs annually to help Menomonie.
When a fire department provides mutual aid, the department does not receive any compensation, although over time, a fire department is likely to receive as much mutual aid as it gives.
Members of the audience also were concerned about the impact on ambulance services, especially if extrication were needed during a car accident, if the entire Town of Sherman was in the Menomonie fire district but the northern part of the township were in the Boyceville ambulance district.
Menomonie would respond with a fire truck and would meet the Boyceville ambulance, Baus said.
Other questions focused on the $500 assessed per fire call.
The Menomonie rural fire district picks up that cost, but the Town of Menomonie, for example, assesses the $500 to the homeowner, Bammert said.
One person in the audience who lives on the south side of the Town of Sherman said a bill had been received for $1,000 for each time the Menomonie department had responded.
Each township receives what the township charges for a fire call, Bammert said.
From the discussion, it was not clear where the invoice for $1,000 had originated and if the Town of Sherman had sent the invoice.
Judy Albricht, clerk-treasurer for the Town of Tainter, said Tainter also charges $1,000 per fire call.
The goal was $500, Bammert said, adding he hoped the constituents of townships that charged more were aware of the higher charge.
Gilbert Krueger, Boyceville village president and chair of the Boyceville fire board, also owns property in the Town of Sherman.
The Menomonie rural fire board could put the issue to an end now by approving a motion to not accept the remainder of the Town of Sherman, Krueger said.
Residents in the Town of Sherman should take the issue to the Sherman Town Board, Prochnow said, adding that the Menomonie Rural Fire District would not, and could not, proceed without a formal request from Sherman.
The Menomonie rural fire board cannot stop townships from requesting to be included in the fire district, but the fire board also cannot vote if there is no formal request, Bammert said.
Baus acknowledged that Boyceville would have a faster response time for the northern part of Sherman and said he would recommend against including the northern part of Sherman in the Menomonie rural district, but also pointed out that at a properly noticed meeting, a township cannot be prevented from making a request.
At one point in the meeting, Green handed a letter to Bammert which stated if the Menomonie rural district were to annex all of Sherman, the Boyceville fire department would have to re-evaluate the mutual aid agreement with Menomonie.
Bammert bristled at the idea of re-evaluating the mutual aid agreement.
Among fire departments, mutual aid agreements are considered “sacred” to ensuring the health, safety and welfare of area residents, since one fire department would not have enough equipment and personnel to fight a very large fire alone, such as the Glenhaven nursing home fire in Glenwood City.
If Sherman were to make a formal request to put the entire township into the Menomonie rural district, what would be the timeline? asked one member of the audience.
The process would take a couple of months and would require a special meeting of the Menomonie rural fire board, Bammert said.
Putting the entire Town of Sherman into the Menomonie rural district “would not be sudden,” he said.
The Menomonie rural fire board would have to analyze the request with the fire chief, Prochnow said.
Presumably the fire chief Prochnow referred to is Baus, since no one on the rural fire board indicated that Menomonie rural has its own fire chief separate from the City of Menomonie.
Paul Wathke, a member of the Sherman Town Board, also attended the Menomonie rural fire district meeting.
Wathke said he was not at the meeting to speak for the town board but that he was there to gather information.
The issue of placing the entire Town of Sherman in the Menomonie rural district also was considered six years ago, he said.
At the August meeting, the Sherman Town Board learned Menomonie was interested in re-visiting changing the boundaries, and the town board discussed hiring an attorney to assess the fire district agreements to determine whether the Sherman Town Board has the right to change the boundaries, Wathke said.
At the September meeting, the Sherman Town Board did not make any additional motions to hire an attorney, he said.
Wathke said it was his understanding that Menomonie had asked if Sherman was interested in placing the entire township in the Menomonie rural fire district.
Since the Menomonie rural fire board had not received a formal request from the Town of Sherman, the board did not take any action concerning the boundaries of the fire district.