by Heather Asiyanbi
Learning about the closing of a fire station through via the news did not sit well with several members of the Mount Pleasant Village Board.
Though the plan to close Station 7 in the Lake Park neighborhood was approved by the Fire/EMS Oversight Committee at their November meeting, the full board wasn’t brought up to speed on the issue.
Trustee David DeGroot, a member of the oversight committee, told Racine County Eye that closing Station 7 isn’t a budget or board issues.
“Closing the station is an administrative decision, and it is in Chief Stedman’s purview to decide how to deploy his staff,” he said. “Redeploying staff to other stations and staffing ambulances with 2-person crews actually puts an extra unit on the road to help handle the number of rescue calls the department handles.”
Stedman’s plan also gets a firmer grip on overtime issues by creating more flexibility to cover positions when a firefighter gets sick or injured, DeGroot added.
At the board meeting Monday, Trustee Don Schulz said he received phone calls from residents about the news, but he couldn’t answer them because he hadn’t been aware.
“I would have thought something of this magnitude would have been presented at a village board meeting so we had the opportunity to discuss it,” he said.
Schulz said he was under the impression that the village had a handle on the overtime issue so the news that SSFD is some $300,000 over budget is concerning.
“Is overtime an issue and are we closing a fire station without trustees having any input?” he asked.
Village President Mark Gleason said there is always an overtime issue and the board should be keeping an eye on those numbers. He turned to Village Administrator Kurt Wahlen for a more thorough explanation but said he would put the Station 7 matter on a future agenda for discussion.
In short, Wahlen told trustees that Stedman has been tasked with getting the fire department’s financial house in order and that means getting creative.
“(His ideas) will give us greater efficiencies, give us some savings in terms of overtime and also taken a look at the McGrath consolidation study that stated this station should be closed,” he said. “This will provide as good or better service to the public. I apologize four of the seven trustees were blind-sided about this. Let’s see how it works and bring it before the board.”
William Miller, president of the fire union, told Racine County Eye over the weekend that the union is not objecting to Stedman’s plan for now.
“(We) will deal with it as long as safety and jobs aren’t at risk,” he said.