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Referendum likely in village

Residents will get to vote on paid-on-premises services

December 04, 2008
\Walworth — There is now little doubt that the village will seek voter approval to fund a joint paid-on-premises fire and rescue service.

Due to the dwindling number of volunteers and an increasing call volume the villages of Walworth and Fontana have investigated staffing the fire and rescue departments during daytime hours.

"There is going to be a referendum. There is no way around it," Trustee LeRoy Nordmeyer said. "The discussion the other night was that it was a for sure deal."

If voters approved the referendum, the village would be allowed to increase its tax levy by more than the state imposed limit. Typically, municipalities can't raise it tax levy by more than 2 percent.

By increasing the tax levy, the village would be able to fund the paid-on-premises service.

When the Village Board met Nov. 24 to adopts its budget, it also discussed going to referendum to fund the joint venture with the village of Fontana.

Trustee Kent Johnson said the board discussed the possible wording of a referendum question during its last meeting.

Trustee Rich Simonson seems confidant that if the issue went before voters, it would be well-received.

"I believe the citizens understand that volunteerism is very demanding and becoming less popular," Simonson said. "They understand we've been fortunate to have such dedicated volunteer citizens responding to fire and rescue calls for so many years. I think they will reward those groups with overwhelming support of the needed changes to ensure the safety of all citizens is maintained."

For more than a year, the villages of Walworth and Fontana have discussed consolidating fire and rescue services.

However, due to a decreasing number of volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel, the two villages also began discussing a paid-on-premises fire and rescue service.

The estimated cost to fund a three-person staff paid-on-premises services for 10 hours a day is $167,000 for both villages.

Recently, the Ad Hoc Joint Service Committee agreed to split the funding of the service by call volume. Currently, about 41 percent of emergency calls are for the village of Fontana.

As proposed, the village would have three full-time positions to cover the 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift. The number of volunteers who respond to calls is lowest from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The village would contract with an outside company to hire two full-time employees. The third position would be filled by rotating part-time personnel.

Paid-on-premises fire and rescue services are provided by departments in Lake Geneva, Bloomfield Township Genoa City and Harvard Ill.

An April 2009 referendum question would allow the village to increase its tax levy for the 2010 budget.

The village of Fontana has budgeted for a paid-on-premises service next year. It will begin in April.

Walworth didn't budget for the service, but the Fire and Rescue departments are looking into funding the project on their own next year.

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