Written by MARK JAEGER
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 17:16
Fire chief asks that ambulance take on department’s title, but troubled history may be resurrected
A simple name change appears to be anything but simple when talking about Fredonia’s Northern Ozaukee Ambulance.
Fredonia Fire Chief Brian Schommer approached the Village Board last week, asking that the separately named ambulance service be called part of the Fredonia Fire Department.
Schommer’s timing was prompted by the purchase of a new ambulance, and his desire to simplify the wording.
Although the ambulance service was founded independently 40 years ago, it merged with the fire department — amid considerable controversy — in 2002.
Even after that merger of operations, however, the service retained its name.
Schommer said the ambulance already acts as a division of the fire department, and all paperwork concerning the service is completed on fire department letterhead.
“I don’t want to disrespect the people who founded the ambulance service in any way. They did a great service to the community. We are just looking at a name change at this point,” he said.
Schommer asked that the formal name be expanded to Fredonia Fire and Ambulance.
He said he has talked with current members of the ambulance crew, and none have a problem with the name change.
However, former members of the ambulance service reportedly feel the change minimizes their contribution to the well being of the village.
Although some officials said they believe there was a document prepared at the time the ambulance service was founded declaring it would always be called the Northern Ozaukee Ambulance, Schommer said he has never seen such an agreement.
The name change would have no affect on how revenue from ambulance billing is handled, he said.
Schommer, who is a former EMT and drives four shifts a month for the service, said there has been a rocky relationship between the founders of the ambulance and the fire department, dating back decades.
He said the department leadership was careful to avoid the name issue when the merger took place a decade ago.
“You have to pick your battles,” Schommer said. “But even before I joined the fire department, it was like oil and water (between the ambulance and fire department).”
He told trustees he hoped they could resolve the question in a timely manner.
“What I am hoping to avoid is having past members come in and reciting 40 years of history,” Schommer said.
Trustees said they understood the logic for the ambulance service name change, but felt no need to rush into a decision.
Because of the long history, Trustee Don Dohrwardt commented on the “touchy” nature of he issue.
“It should be handled with a little diplomacy,” Dohrwardt said.
The board tabled the issue until its Feb. 20 meeting.
“Waiting will only help our decision,” Village President Chuck Lapicola said.