Menomonee Falls — After almost two years of discussion, officials from the villages of Menomonee Falls and Lannon have reached an agreement that will consolidate their fire departments starting in 2015.
The Menomonee Falls Village Board on Monday, May 19, approved the agreement, which Lannon approved last month. The agreement itself has taken a year of negotiation, primarily in closed session meetings between representatives of both villages on matters of how to most efficiently combine the equipment and resources of both departments, share funding of a consolidated department, and how the department would be run.
The result is a plan to incorporate the Lannon department into the Menomonee Falls department on a contractual, cost-sharing basis, a move Menomonee Falls Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald said is in the best interest of the village in the long term.
"This is the ideal time to begin this consolidation," Fitzgerald said. "It allows them to move their fire department units out of their small, cramped building downtown and gives us capital equipment valued at about $289,000 that will defer cost to the village, as well as their manpower."
Lannon delegates its authority for fire inspections, investigations, code enforcement and any other fire department operations to Menomonee Falls under the agreement, which also states Menomonee Falls will provide fire protection and EMS services to Lannon.
Current Lannon Fire Department personnel, which includes about 35 paid on-call volunteers, will join a combination of part-time, full-time and paid on-call volunteers within the Menomonee Falls department.
"I think the work force from Lannon coming forward is one of the key ingredients in this situation," said Village President Randy Newman. "Bringing over that kind of work force will benefit the village."
In addition, Fitzgerald said assets and equipment such as ambulances and protective gear will become property of Menomonee Falls, and Lannon will pay its proportionate share of the annual capital and operating costs of the Menomonee Falls Fire Department.
According to the agreement, Lannon is responsible for 4.95% of the annual budget for the first five years, at which point the formula will be recalculated every five years thereafter.
"We think this makes a lot of sense," Fitzgerald said. "It doesn't give Lannon the ability to veto operations or budget (proposals). Lannon believes this is in their best interest and long term it makes sense for the region."
Savings for Lannon
The consolidation allows the village of Lannon a savings of the estimated $1.5 million cost to either remodel their existing fire station at village hall or construct a new station at a different location.
Instead, Lannon will be serviced primarily by the new Fire Station No. 1 in Menomonee Falls. Construction is slated to begin this month on the new Fire Station No. 1 at the southwest corner of Main Street and Menomonee Avenue, which will replace the existing Fire Station No. 1 downtown and become the Menomonee Falls/Lannon Fire Station.
The cost of the new Station No. 1 is estimated at $2.75 million, according to the plan, a percentage of which will be covered by Lannon based on the terms of the agreement. It is one of two new fire stations being constructed in the Falls this year, with Fire Station No. 5 on West Silver Spring Drive and One Mile Road is being constructed at an estimated $2.59 million.
Completion of both stations is anticipated by the end of 2014, in time for the agreement to go into effect January 1. At that point, Lannon will close its current fire station and operate out of the new Station No. 1.
The change was opposed by trustee Jeremy Walz, who questioned the assessed value of the equipment, suggesting they were valued higher than they should have been.
"Lannon agreed to hire a firm that does fire equipment appraisals," Fitzgerald clarified. "You could probably find contradicting data ...(but) we believe the appraisal is solid."
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