Edgerton Fire District staff will explore the possibility of the town of Milton, which owns 50% of the Milton Fire Department, joining the Edgerton Fire Protection District (EFPD). Edgerton fire department will also look at options for the Milton and Milton Township Fire Department’s contracted towns.
The Edgerton fire district board on April 8 gave approval to the staff and appointed president John Sherman to represent the board in the discussions.
Representatives from the town of Milton and three of the four towns (Harmony, Johnstown, Koskonong) that contract with the Milton Fire Department were at the meeting at Edgerton Fire District Headquarters. A representative from the Town of Lima was not present.
Town of Milton Chairman Bryan Meyer said the contracted towns have expressed interest in learning about the Edgerton Fire District and how the district could maybe work with the town of Milton, and they need to find a solution for themselves, as well.
From a financial perspective, Edgerton Fire Chief Randall Pickering noted Sherman made it clear that any costs associated with EFPD entertaining discussions of other entities possibly joining the district, except for staff time, must be paid for by the requesting entities.
Pickering has looked at historical financial and call data of the Milton and Milton Township Fire Department.
“In looking at the mix of revenue between tax levy and fee for service, the financial makeup of the current Milton cooperative arrangement is very different than the mix of Edgerton Fire Protection District. I mean notably different,” Pickering said. “I’ve said right from the very beginning if something were ever to be worked out, there would have to be a transition period to work into it.”
Before finances can be discussed, he said, “there would have to be a very detailed discussion of what the expectations of the potential new members would be. What type of service do they want? I don’t want to say there are dozens of models, but there are dozens of models. We’ll get it down to a small number.”
The towns need to determine what coverage and response times are acceptable to them, he said.
“The assumption is Jan. 1 a different model needs to be in place of some sort (other than the Milton and Milton Township Fire Department in a functional merger with the Janesville Fire Department, as it is today),” Meyer said.
Realistically, he said there needs to be a transition in 2022.
Edgerton fire district board member Evan Sayre, looking down the road, said, “It’s my opinion that fire protection is going to get really expensive and it’s going to be paying 24-hour full-time help.”
Town of Harmony chairman Jeff Klenz said in the Edgerton district, Harmony could have a vote.
“The only problem is if you’re a conscientious board member, and you’re not going to be able to get the truck to go out the door unless you have full-time help, you’re going to have to vote for it,” Sayre said.
“Everyone has to be aware your fire bill is not going to go down,” he added.
Sherman said, “We try to stay competitive with our wage, too, so we retain good people.”
Meyer said Milton has had discussions similar to Edgerton’s and understood costs would go up with more full-time employees.
EFPD has six full-time employees (four areparamedics), three part-time and others paid on call. Pickering is a volunteer who receives a stipend and is paid for expenses.
“We took the former chief’s salary and put that into putting on the fire truck,” he said.
For the most part, he said, “there’s usually five people on duty at all times.”
Two people assigned to primary response ambulance are full-time or part-time employees, he said.
EFPD coverage extends into Rock, Dane and Jefferson counties and totals about 100 square miles and includes 10 miles of Interstate 90. The population of the area is about 15,000.