The town and village of Cottage Grove and village of Deerfield will move forward with seeking a consultant to study Deer Grove EMS staffing and other needs.
The Deerfield Village Board voted unanimously on Monday night to sign onto the effort, but stopped short of committing to help pay for the study.
Board members said they want to first see the proposals submitted by prospective consultants, and then will vote on whether to fund a portion of the study cost and to help pay a consultant.
In addition to staffing needs, the study is also proposed look at how the service is governed by the Deer-Grove EMS Commission and to review things like emergency response times, organizational structure, facilities, finances and the impact of future community growth.
Deer-Grove EMS Chief Eric Lang said a request for proposals may go out by the end of the week, with a consultant expected to be chosen by late May.
The Cottage Grove Town Board signed onto the effort in order to “have a say in the scope,” according to several board members at the meeting. Cottage Grove Town Board members have expressed concerns with whether or not the study is necessary.
Cottage Grove Town Board Supervisor Mike Fonger, who voted against the EMS study, has said that Deer-Grove EMS will never be perfect, and said a study won’t tell the municipalities more than local EMS leaders can.
Sarah Valencia, who represents the Village of Cottage Grove on the Deer-Grove EMS Commission, said that while Deer-Grove EMS will never be perfect, “we should be doing all that we can to save as many lives as possible.”
“There was a comment made in the Cottage Grove town meeting that the Village ‘wants, wants, wants.’ Yes, this is accurate. We want a better chance for our citizens to be saved,” Valencia said. “We are elected to serve our constituents. Our citizens want and expect that we will provide emergency response services in a manner that will save the most lives as possible.”
She said that there is a 0% save rate for cardiac-related events if the responding ambulance is not responding from the same municipality.
“It doesn’t matter that we have some of the best EMS staff in the county if it takes over 12 minutes for them to arrive on scene,” she said. In March 2021, both the Deerfield and Cottage Grove stations were staffed at the same time 43% of the time, she said.
Deer-Grove EMS currently serves the town and village of Cottage Grove and the village of Deerfield through an intergovernmental agreement, and contractually responds to calls in the town of Deerfield and in part of the town of Pleasant Springs.
A paramedic-level service with a full-time chief, 15 LTE paramedics and 18 volunteers, it has two stations, one each in Cottage Grove and Deerfield.
The entire EMS district covers about 100 square miles, and a population of about 18,000 people.
A motion by the town board required the request for proposals to be approved and sent out by the Deer-Grove EMS Commission at its meeting Thursday, not by the village of Cottage Grove.
Additionally, town of Cottage Grove motions required the proportion of payment for the study to be made based on the equalized value of the municipalities in the Deer-Grove EMS contract. If the town’s motions are followed, the village of Cottage Grove will pay for the study this year and then the other municipalities’ portions will come out of their respective budgets for 2022.
A municipality’s equalized value is the total amount of real estate and personal property value within its boundaries.
Deerfield Village President Greg Frutiger, who represents Deerfield on the Deer-Grove EMS Commission, said the hope is to complete the study by mid-fall.
The town of Cottage Grove voted against participation in a study of Cottage Grove’s fire department staffing needs at its meeting on April 5.
Cottage Grove Town Board members have expressed concerns about what the study would do to morale among volunteer firefighters.
Town Supervisor Kristi Williams was the only supervisor to vote in favor of the town’s participation, saying that while she doesn’t “see a necessity for the study,” she is worried that the village of Cottage Grove will move forward without giving the town a chance for input.
The Cottage Grove town and village both meet on the same night, so it is not yet known whether the village plans to move forward with the study on its own.