Port takes action to ease EMS staffing crisis

Council agrees to seek $200,000 county paramedic grant, consider sharing services, consolidation with neighbors
Ozaukee Press staff

The City of Port Washington took two steps to ease the paramedic crisis that has affected the city in recent years, with aldermen approving an application for a grant to help fund two more positions in the coming years and agreeing to look into the possibility of sharing services or possibly consolidating its department.

The city is applying for $200,000 annually for the next three years to add two full-time positions to the ambulance services — a firefighter/paramedic and a deputy chief of emergency medical services, City Administrator Tony Brown said.

They would supplement the current two full-time firefighter/paramedics, he said, allowing the city to have a paramedic on duty 24/7.

These paramedics would work a 24-hour shift, then be off duty for 48 hours.

The deputy chief would work a standard 40-hour week, Brown said, and handle second calls during the daytime.

“We see a lot of our second calls during the day,” Fire Chief Mark Mitchell told aldermen. “That’s been a huge problem.”

The city anticipates hiring these positions by August, officials said.

That could be a challenge, Mitchell said.

“There will be a lot of competition to try and get these positions filled (throughout the county),” he said.

The grant program was proposed by Sheriff Jim Johnson after he saw that it was taking longer for emergency medical services to respond to calls throughout the county.

The county grant program, which was approved in April, will use $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to finance as many as 18 paramedics throughout the county for 30 months, after which communities are expected to fund the positions on their own.

The grants are for as much as $200,000 annually, with communities that consolidate services being eligible for an additional $100,000 annually.

If they consolidate with more than one other community, they are also eligible for $100,000 for building improvements.

“A program like this is a godsend,” Mitchell said. “How can you say no?”

Brown concurred, saying the county should be recognized for “understanding something that is a daily concern the chief and I share.

“Everyone understands and wants to have public safety services that respond in a timely fashion. This helps us move toward that.”

As part of the grant application, communities are to provide the county with a plan to sustain these positions by May 1, 2023.

Brown said that when the grant funding ends, the city will likely eliminate the deputy chief’s position and retain the full-time firefighter/paramedic post.

He said that’s because there will likely be attrition in the department staffing and the city does not anticipate right now that it will have the funding in place to cover both positions once the grant ends.

“Of course, in the next three years maybe that will change,” he said, adding the city doesn’t want to “put itself in a position where it (paramedic funding) crowds out something else.”

At that time, Brown said, much of the estimated $95,000 cost will be financed through a new Medicaid Supplement for EMS Services program that allows communities to recover more of the cost when services are provided to Medicaid patients, which is expected to bring in about $70,000.

The city will work to integrate the remaining $25,000 into its budget for the program during the next three years, Brown said.

  Aldermen also approved a resolution establishing a working group of representatives from the town and city of Cedarburg, villages of Grafton and Saukville and City of Port looking into shared services and potential consolidation.

“Obviously this is to increase the safety for citizens and visitors of these communities and decrease the response times for emergency services,” Brown said.

While the resolution establishes the working group, it doesn’t define objectives or timelines for the group, something he said he expects to come in the next 30 to 60 days.

“This is going to be an involved process,” Mitchell said, noting it took Mequon and Thiensville two years to reach their consolidation agreement.

“We’ll see where this takes us.”

Mayor Ted Neitzke said the city “wants to ensure it can maintain its identity with consolidation as we move forward and honor our legacy. Port Washington’s main concern is to make sure we have someone answering in a timely fashion every call that is made.”


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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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