Departments in Saukville, Grafton look more alike

Fire chief’s pay plan latest example of services ‘creeping’ toward consolidation
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Grafton and Saukville fire departments are looking more and more alike in recent months — and that’s by design.

Fire Chief Bill Rice, who serves both departments, said the two departments cross train their staffs, have identical policies, protocols and pay scales and are even setting up equipment in their rigs in a similar manner.

“That way, a Grafton firefighter who has never looked at a Saukville fire engine before, if I ask him to get me a piece of equipment he knows where to look,” Rice said.

He has someone on staff who works at acquiring medical supplies for both departments, Rice said, another who does quality control and report writing for both and someone who does testing of equipment for the two departments.

And on days when there aren’t paramedics in one community, those in the other often respond.

It’s a precursor to someday consolidating departments, something Rice said officials in both communities — as well as Port Washington — are working toward.

“There’s no doubt we’re creeping toward that,” he said.

And Monday he presented a plan to the Grafton Finance Committee to create a new pay rate that will provide an incentive for Saukville firefighter/paramedics to fill overtime shifts in the Grafton department when Grafton doesn’t have the personnel.

The committee recommended the plan to the Village Board, and Rice said a similar proposal will be made to the Saukville Village Board in the coming weeks.

“I’m trying to bring more opportunities to the firefighters/paramedics who work in Grafton and Saukville,” Rice said. “I want to retain them.

“It’s just another effort to blend these two organizations. There are days we otherwise would not be able to have paramedics. Now we can fill those spots with someone familiar with the community, equipment, training, protocols.”

Saukville recently hired its third full-time paramedic/firefighter, using grant money form Ozaukee County. Grafton has been authorized to fill three spots with the county funding, and is working to fill the last of those slots, Rice said.

It’s not unusual for full-time paramedics to work part-time for other departments, he said, and he would like to see Grafton and Saukville paramedics cross staff as much as possible.

“I want them to cross over as much as they can,” Rice said. “We are working together.”

The new pay rate, he said, will help create the opportunity for more cross staffing, which can only benefit the communities.

There are currently nine full-time staff members in the Grafton and Saukville departments, and the chief noted that two of Saukville’s full-time paramedics currently are on the Grafton part-time roster.

Rice said that when Saukville hired its first full-time firefighter/paramedic, he unsuccessfully proposed that the two departments create a combined workforce.

While it wasn’t the right time for that to happen, Rice said, the cross-staffing that can be realized through the new pay rate is another step forward.

Talks between Grafton, Saukville and Port are progressing, he said.

“It was discussed that we would try to hold off on any large capital purchases for now,” Rice said.

Saukville is retiring one of its fire trucks, he said, and the village doesn’t plan to replace it.

“It’s not necessary any more,” Rice said, noting both departments typically respond to calls. “That’s going to save taxpayers in Saukville a great deal.”

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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