Park Ridge to enter short-term fire services agreement with Stevens Point
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – The village of Park Ridge will enter into a short-term fire services agreement with the city of Stevens Point, after approval from both boards.
During the June 27 village board meeting, Park Ridge President Steve Menzel recapped the situation that led to the agreement.
“Spring of 2021, the village established a strategic planning task force… the purpose was to identify and clarify needs and priorities of the village – a broad range. With those, included the need for fire protection. We figured that that group would probably meet about a year to complete a plan,” he said.
“We had made a lot of progress working very close to spring, then Chief (Brian) Lepper turned in his resignation on Feb. 12, if I am correct. Then, Assistant Chief (John) Craft turned his resignation in on Feb. 21. So, those actions put the fire department decisions on a faster track. The hope was that we would complete our strategic plan and then determine how we would handle the various priorities.
“Within a week after the chief’s resignation, I started meeting with various individuals, advisors, municipalities regarding what our next steps might be.
“That brought us to the thought that we would need to put together at least a short-term contract to handle fire protection services for July 1 and after.”
Menzel said that one of the reasons for that presumption was the fact that it would take them some time to find a new chief.
“That’s why I was looking into the possibility of at least a short-term (contract), because the reality of finding a chief in six months or less was going to be difficult,” he explained.
On June 13, the board met and discussed the idea of setting up a short-term contract with Stevens Point.
A fire department organizational analysis prepared for the village by McMahon Public Safety Management seemed to support the move.
“The Village faces significant challenges in maintaining and operating its own fire department. Recommendations presented in this report, if implemented, would allow the Village to maintain and operate its own department. The consulting team, however, believes the Village would be better served by seeking partnerships or contracts with neighboring municipalities for provision of fire services rather than investing and maintaining its own fire department,” the analysis stated.
During the June 27 special meeting, board members unanimously agreed to enter a short-term contract with the city of Stevens Point.
“That would place our department on an inactive status, not shutting the department down, not a suspension. It is an inactive status so that it will enable us to compensate firefighters and also leave open the possibility that the village, if it would want to and be able to continue as a fire department,” Menzel explained.
The agreement was designed to begin on July 1 at 12:01 a.m. and continue to Dec. 31 at 11:59 p.m.
Through the contract, two payments of $47,974.85 will be due on July 1 and Oct. 1, and the move will put Stevens Point Fire Department in charge of the jurisdiction.
On June 28, the Stevens Point Common Council held a special meeting to consider the agreement, which would include fire inspection and fire prevention work, as well as EMS and fire protection services.
Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza stated that it was intended to put the fees for services into the operational budget of the Stevens Point Fire Department.
“Because they are providing the service, they are the ones that are going to have the direct expenses, rather than the general fund,” Wiza said.
Stevens Point Fire Chief Jb Moody added that he was comfortable with the current staff level being able to handle the added work during the six months period.
The Stevens Point Common Council unanimously approved the agreement.