Written by MICHAEL LoCICERO
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 22:52
Group from Dacada fears delayed response times after town shifts coverage to Belgium Fire Department
If residents in the small hamlet of Dacada had it their way, fire and ambulance services would remain with the Random Lake Fire Department instead of Belgium’s.
The reasons, they said passionately at Tuesday’s Belgium Town Board meeting, are slower response times and higher insurance rates by switching departments.
An agreement signed earlier this year between the town and village of Belgium and Belgium Fire Department Inc., stated that emergency services in the northwest portion of the Town of Belgium would be served by Belgium instead of Random Lake.
Residents contended Tuesday that they were not informed of the changes before an agreement was reached.
“Nobody knew about this,” said Dacada resident Mike Bahr. “Why wasn’t this discussed further?”
Town Chairman Tom Winker noted that all meetings, including the estimated seven meetings between the town, village and fire department over the last few years, are posted at three different sites in the Belgium area.
He said that one of the reasons for the switch is “bookkeeping nightmares” caused by determining Dacada’s portion of equalized value and subtracting it from the number provided to the Village of Belgium.
Belgium Fire Department’s service is paid for by the town and village based on equalized values.
Residents were also concerned that the Belgium Fire Department had been using the Northern Ozaukee Ambulance in Fredonia when emergency calls were required.
Random Lake Fire Department has two ambulances, while Northern Ozaukee has one, residents said.
They noted that the distance between Fredonia and Random Lake to Dacada was significant enough to be the difference between saving a life.
“We have no qualms about the quality of the Belgium Fire Department,” Rita Horstmeier said. “It comes down to response times. Every minute in a life-threatening situation counts.
“If I’m having a heart attack, I want the closest one (ambulance) coming, not the farthest away.”
Another resident claimed her insurance rates would go up because of what was perceived as longer response times by switching to the Belgium Fire Department.
“I think there is some bias on the board in regards to making this change,” Fran Snow said. “If the clerk finds this extra work burdensome, then she could decide not to run for re-election. This is a poorly made decision for the residents that it affects.”
Bahr was also irked by a report he received from Belgium Fire Chief Dan Birenbaum which said that Random Lake Fire Department, which is about four miles from Dacada, is seventh in the line of calls received as part of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.
That caught Winker by surprise.
In response, he promised to invite Birenbaum to the Town Board meeting in October so residents can get more answers.
“I did not know a lot of the things that were brought up tonight,” Winker said. “In defense of this board, all the MABAS stuff was never presented to the board. We always try to make sure everything we do is transparent.”