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Greenfield Supports Consolidation, Neighbors Do Not

Greendale village manager Todd Michaels said the village is open to some of the sharing of fire services, but is less enthusiastic about a full consolidation of five area departments.

Full fire department consolidation between five southern Milwaukee County communities will not move forward like some Greenfield officials would like, if Greendale has something to say about it.

Discussions on fire department consolidation have continued since was released in late May.

The Public Policy Forum report identifies ways in which fire departments in Greenfield, Greendale, Hales Corners, Oak Creek and Franklin could consolidate and save money — including combining all five into one. The study comes after about a year of research, involving fire chiefs and administrators from all five communities who explored the range of consolidation possibilities. 

But Greendale Village Manager Todd Michaels told Patch the officials aren't too keen about a merger.

"All I could say right now is that we are still reviewing the study," he said. "We are very open to some of the concepts in there and more hesitant in reference to full consolidation."

He added that village officials would continue to review the report, but he didn't know if and when the Village Board would take up the issue.

Local officials last year  in the face of ongoing budget struggles for municipal governments.

The Public Policy Forum report presents three models of how that could be done:

  • A coordinated support services model would involve comparatively minor changes, such as consolidation in training, vehicle maintenance and fire inspection services for the five departments.
  • An operational consolidation model goes deeper. Operations would be unified under a "closest unit responds" approach, regardless of municipal boundary. But the departments remain separate entities.
  • Under a full consolidation model, the five departments would merge into one, with its own governance structure, budget, equipment and personnel. 

According to the report, the latter model would provide the greatest savings of the three options — about $1 million per year, with no closings of fire stations and minimal reductions in staff.

In beginning discussions, Greendale officials raised concerns about the loss of the village’s autonomy in providing emergency services, fear about losing money through consolidation and worries that service levels could decline.

In October, Trustee Ron Barbian said:

“In my opinion we run the best municipality. People move here for our schools and services we have...Our history shows we perform better services than our neighbors and I don’t want to take that initial step to pursue this. Share services and helping out with response times, we have already been doing it.”

Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi said it's too early to say what degree of consolidation the Oak Creek community and Common Council prefer.

"There's a lot of possibilities," Scaffidi said. "It's about what makes sense for each city, what their citizens think about it, and lastly, what the impact is."

Greendale is one of the communities that relies heavily on a mutual-aid system, particularly with Greenfield.

Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke and Fire Chief Jon Cohn .

Shortly after the report was released, Cohn said:

"Because there is concern of giving up autonomy and local control, could there be some functional aspects and then an operational outlook and then a few years later, a full consolidation? I think there can be, but I don't think there's time for that due to the current status of financing our budgets.

"We're sort of at a hallmark moment with service levels. If you continue on the status quo, you're going to be faced with cost restraints that will trickle into service-level decisions."

Patch editors David Cotey and Mark Schaaf contributed to this report.

seriously? June 27, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I would like to sincerely THANK the GREENFIELD safety personnel who voluntarily agreed to concessions this year by paying part of their pension and increased health insurance. I see the 2012 Public Safety Budget **saved the taxpayers almost $2 million this year**, with no reduction in the services delivered by these outstandingly professional men and women, who, as their mission states, are truly dedicated to protecting and serving, and willing to do their part to help the community residents. We should all make sure to THANK them not only for their service, but for being true professionals and caring about the well being of their community as a whole, not just their own paycheck. Thank you to all!!
Sarah June 27, 2012 at 05:18 PM
If this is working well for Greenfield and saving the taxpayers that much money, maybe this should be done in other communities as well! Every fire department in the area (except Greenfield) has increased their budget by about 5% this year! In an era of cutting back! And I doubt anyone has seen better or increased service in exchange for that increased budget. In this day and age - if the other community departments can't be flexible and creative enough to come up with solutions that save money, then those department heads need to be replaced with someone who can. If the other police and fire unions won't give concessions similar to Greenfield, and those other departments are also opposing consolidation (which would save ME $$), then we should give them a budget, and tell them to find a way to live within their means and still meet their obligations to the people that pay them - just like everyone in the real world has to do.
Bob June 29, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Sarah- The only reason Greenfield is pro-consolidation is because they are in some serious debt!! They would benefit from the consolidation only because it would help level out their budget. Thats all they are worried about, not "providing better care". The fire department is providing service just fine as it is, but they are money hungry. The other communities, in turn, are NOT in as much financial crisis and providing a superior service on their own. In Greendale they have even upgraded their EMS service to the paramedic level, which provides more life saving care. They will no longer have to rely on Greenfield mutual aid - when seconds count between life and death. Why should the other communities ruin their "perfectly" ran program/budget and pay into making Greenfield get out of their budget crisis - which they put themselves in. In reply to Seriously- Don't think the Greenfield firefighters and union "voluntarily" just gave in without a fight. They were very opposed and put up a HUGE fight, but the City officials have a stronger hand. They were definately more worried about their money, than providing a caring service to the citizens. They simply just got beat.
Truth About Greenfield July 16, 2012 at 09:12 AM
Greenfield Mayor is a lier. All the departments are currently talking about closest ems or fire department to get the call. But Greenfield mayor said he does not want to have anything to do with it. You will also not save any money. Who's going to dispatch this consolidated department. No one can currently take on the calls. So that means that money you saved has to say for dispatchers. Also if you remember greenfield fire fighters tried to sue the city so they did not have to have the cuts. So easy how people forget how screwed up greenfield fire department real is.

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