Two fire departments in our area will be gone by the end of the year and a new one will be created. Both boards in the Town of Rib Mountain and the Village of Weston voted unanimously Tuesday to combine the two departments. But, not before the public had a chance to weigh in.
"It's been a well thought out and well planned thing," Town of Rib Mountain Chairman Allen Opall said.
During a special town board meeting, Weston and Rib Mountain leaders put their stamp of approval on this plan that was announced just last week.
"Community members should be able to trust their elected leaders to look into the future for certain advantages," Opall said.
Officials told the public the fire and EMS services they see now won't change. What will change, they say, is how much these services will cost. Officials say the new department will save both communities money.
But this decision means every firefighter and EMT will lose their jobs and have to re-apply. Officials say they aren't sure how many employees the new department will hire. That's something local firefighter union 415 president says concerns local firefighters.
"I have plenty of concerns, but first we want people to know public safety is our number one priority. That's what all firefighters say from day one, public safety, response times and getting in our input," Jeremy Kopp told Newsline 9 after the meeting.
There are other unknowns. For example, how much money will be saved? And what will happen to any firefighters that don't get re-hired? One Weston man says those questions weren't answered.
"I'm sure some questions can't be done but my firm belief is that when you're voting on stuff and it's effective and changing something in less than six months more questions should have been had," Weston resident Chuck Prinz said.
In the end both boards approved the plan. Members also elected a governing board for the new department. It is scheduled to begin operations by January 1, 2014.