Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Supervisors kill another attempt at a substation
Resolution receives little support at Geneva Town Board meeting

by Steve Targo

February 17, 2011

Geneva — Chairman Dan Lauderdale described his proposed resolution to build a fire and emergency services substation with two nearby communities a message of sincerity.

But at the Town Board meeting Wednesday, Feb. 9, Supervisor Steve Kukla called it "a wish list." A short time later, the board voted 2-2 on a motion by Lauderdale, seconded by Supervisor Keith Millard, to approve the resolution. Kukla and Kulik voted against it. Supervisor Bob Kamps was absent, so the effort failed.

"The resolution dies," Lauderdale said.

This revolves around an idea which made local headlines more than two years ago, when the towns of Geneva and Linn and the village of Williams Bay hired a firm to conduct a study of the Highway 50 region, including Geneva National. The focus of the study was to determine a way to improve emergency response times to the region. One recommendation was to build a substation which could be used by area fire and EMS personnel.

The issue was not without its controversy. Part of it stemmed from the way a resolution came forward in July 12, 2010, when the Geneva Town Board approved on a 3-2 vote a resolution to authorize borrowing no more than $500,000 to build a substation.

What began as a potential partnership between Williams Bay and the towns of Geneva and Linn died once the village backed away from the table. However, with this new resolution, Lauderdale said he wanted to show the town's sincerity about the idea and he hoped it would entice those two communities back into negotiations.

Lauderdale said Mercy Walworth Medical Center has agreed to donate about 2 acres of land across from the entrance to Geneva National, Highway 50, to be used for the proposed substation. Lauderdale said Paratech, a private ambulance service which currently is covering the town's EMS services which once were provided by Lake Geneva, is looking for a place to house equipment in the region.

But aside from Lauderdale's comments Feb. 9 in support of the substation idea, the only other word in favor of the resolution came from Millard when he voted "aye."

A few residents — including Joe Kopecky, a former town official who is running against Lauderdale in the upcoming chairman race — expressed their opposition to the idea. About 25 people attended the meeting, which had been moved to the Lake Como Sanitary District building due to the fire at the Town Hall during the Groundhog Day blizzard.

Others who opposed it were Kulik and Kukla, the latter criticizing the way the new resolution was written.

"It's a wish list and I just don't think it's very good wording here," Kukla said.

Kulik said although he liked that $500,000 was taken out of the new resolution, he expressed his support of a previous study.

According to Kulik, a University of Wisconsin professor assessed the Lake Geneva Fire Department in 1997. This professor recommended the towns of Linn and Geneva and the city of Lake Geneva combine efforts and form a joint fire/EMS service.

Kulik said he spoke recently with Linn Town Chairman Jim Weiss about the subject. Kulik said Weiss didn't know anything about the study and he will provide him with a copy of it.

As for a substation, Kulik showed support of someday building one in Lake Como subdivision.

"I think if we're ever to build anything in the town, it should go here," he said.

Residents didn't like it either

Kopecky also questioned why the proposed substation wouldn't be built near Lake Como. He said in the past, analysis has indicated most fire and EMS volunteers who live in the town are closer to that area.

"I don't know if it's such a great decision," Kopecky said of the proposed substation idea.

He asked several other questions, including how the station would be staffed, how much it would cost to put in equipment and who exactly the station would serve. Kopecky said Geneva National representatives have expressed concerns about increasing emergency response times before, but if the station were build on Petrie Road, it may better serve that area.

He also questioned how beneficial the proposed substation would be to the town of Linn. Kopecky said the proposed substation site is about 1-1/2 miles away from Linn's border. To attract volunteers from Linn also could be another issue.

"I think the bigger concern is to have something more accessible," Kopecky said.

He also asked what would happen to the substation if Williams Bay annexes Mercy in the future? Kopecky said although village officials have agreed not to do so now, the village currently provides the hospital with sewer services. He said this could be a realistic concern in the future.

Other town of Geneva residents expressed concerns.

After explaining his efforts to coordinate some sort of joint response system with the fire chiefs in Lake Geneva and Elkhorn, town resident Pat Carroll said the staffing of the truck at the Lake Como Sanitary District building "still isn't there," despite there being "seven or eight" trained firefighters in Lake Como.

Town resident Kelly Herwald focused on the dollars. She asked if the town can't afford to keep a contract for rescue services from Lake Geneva, how can it afford to build a new station?

"If you're trying to save us money, why would you even look at this?" Herwald asked.