No more Lake Geneva rescue coverage
Town chairman hopes city continues to provide fire services
January 12, 2011 | 08:57 AM
Geneva — For years, the city of Lake Geneva has provided fire and rescue coverage to a region of the town including southern Lake Como subdivision and areas north of Highway 50.
Now, it appears if the city is going to continue any kind of town coverage, it will be firefighting services only.
Members of the Geneva Town Board and the Lake Geneva Police and Fire Commission met in closed session Thursday, Jan. 6, to continue talks about a new agreement, one excluding city rescue services.
The agreement between Lake Geneva and the town of Geneva expired Dec. 31, but the city's Fire Department will continue to cover fire calls in that region of the town pending the outcome of negotiations.
Now, rescue services are being covered by Paratech, a private ambulance service with branches throughout Wisconsin.
During a special meeting Dec. 22, the Geneva Town Board approved the switch on a 4-1 vote.
Supervisor Larry Kulik — a Lake Geneva Fire Department member and the town's department liaison — voted against it.
In a Friday interview, Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale said he is optimistic town and city officials can reach an agreement continuing the city's coverage of fire calls in that part of the town.
However, Lauderdale said if negotiations fell through, he would consider talking to fire departments in the city of Elkhorn, the village of Williams Bay or the town of Lyons.
"But that would be unfortunate and result in delayed response times to our calls," Lauderdale said. "That's why I'm hopeful Lake Geneva will continue to provide coverage."
He thanked Lake Geneva EMS for "the many years of dedicated service they have provided to this community," but he wanted to assure town residents Paratech is also a first-rate service.
"Paratech is the highest level of EMS service available in that of paramedic status," Lauderdale said. "Their rigs are commonly located within the town of Geneva (and) they back up several area departments, including Lake Geneva's."
According to Lauderdale, since May 7, officials began negotiating the recently expired service agreement.
That's when Lake Geneva Fire Chief Brent Connelly sent Lauderdale a letter which proposed a $20,000 annual retainer fee, a $1,000 charge per fire call response, no fees for ambulance transports and other options Lauderdale said Friday he had no problem with.
Kulik began negotiating with city officials last summer. Lauderdale said on Nov. 15, the Town Board approved a tentative agreement with the city based on those terms and subsequently adopted the budget based on these figures.
However, Lauderdale said Lake Geneva Commission President Scott Storms proposed the town assume the responsibility for billing patients for ambulance calls and "pay them direct" for each call.
"I told them I don't have proper staff to do that," Lauderdale said.
He said Storms told him it's a burden on city taxpayers to absorb delinquent emergency bills, something Lauderdale said he understood.
However, after a Dec. 14 meeting, Lauderdale said he explored other options and discovered Paratech would provide its coverage with no charge to the town. Paratech would bill patients directly, he said.
The town's agreement with Paratech is for three years.
Lauderdale said he still would be willing to sign an agreement based on what Connelly proposed with Storms' input in his May letter. However, he said in late December, city officials withdrew the notion of having the town recover costs for delinquent bills.
As for the town, Lauderdale — who also is a Williams Bay police officer — said he heard radio traffic on his scanner for two nearly simultaneous rescue calls in the town.
He said the first one occurred near Wildwood subdivision.
"While that patient was being transported to the hospital, a second call came in for (someone with) a possible heart attack in Geneva National," he said. "Already, Paratech had shifted its available rigs into the town. The response time to that call in Geneva National was three to four minutes. It beat the squad car."