Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Another look at coverage

by Steve Targo

April 19, 2012

LINN — In case you haven’t heard, if you live in the town’s North Shore region and you have to call for fire or rescue services, you’re covered.

Anywhere from the limits of the city of Lake Geneva to the village of Williams Bay, south of Highway 50, you’re covered.

Nevertheless, during a telephone interview Friday, Linn Town Chairman Jim Weiss said officials are in the process of creating a five-year emergency coverage plan for the North Shore.

He said Supervisor Jeanne Allis brought up the idea of a five-year plan.

“That will be taken up most likely at the next Protective Services Committee meeting, which would be in May,” Weiss said. “I sure hope it is.”

There could be two reasons why he hopes that.

For one, the service situation on the North Shore has been the source of controversy, most recently after a supervisor candidate in the April 3 election made public false statements indicating a portion of the region has no fire protection.

As for the other reason, Weiss said the North Shore represents more than 50 percent of the town’s tax revenue. A large number of property owners in that region are not voters or residents in Wisconsin, he said.

“However, they are very important to the township as a whole,” Weiss said. “We need to make sure they have adequate and proper fire protection.”

Current coverage

It’s a geographical dilemma which created this issue. Geneva Lake physically isolates the north shore from the south shore region. With Linn’s emergency services centered in Zenda, response to north shore calls likely involves personnel having to drive through the city of Lake Geneva.

In the past, the town had an agreement with the city’s Fire and Rescue departments to respond to north shore calls up to Chapin Road. However, on Nov. 26, 2010, Linn and village of Williams Bay officials signed an agreement which requires the village’s Fire and EMS services to respond to all north shore calls.

This agreement, which expires Dec. 31, 2013, was posted on the town’s website after erroneous statements were made by Allan Polyock, who ran unsuccessfully against Allis in the April 3 election.

In the March 29 Regional News, Polyock stated north shore fire protection is one of the town’s most important issues.

“The town has a contract with the village of Williams Bay to cover the north shore from its limits east to Chapin Road,” Polyock stated. “We used to have one with Lake Geneva for the rest of the area east of Chapin Road. A new contract has been in the hands of Town Board members for months, but it remains unsigned.”

On Friday, Weiss stressed this is not true. He also said Allis, herself a north shore resident, received several calls and e-mails after Polyock’s statements were printed.

During a brief telephone interview Tuesday, Polyock said he apologized at the April 10 annual town meeting for his error. He said the town of Linn used to have fire protection services agreements with Lake Geneva and Williams Bay, but “somehow that got changed.”

“I was wrong,” Polyock said.

There have been erroneous statements made by others, Weiss said. He added he wants to clear the air — there is no proposal from Lake Geneva for north shore service before the Linn Town Board from the Lake Geneva City Council that Weiss said he knows of.

“If a proposal is going to be discussed or even (passed) around, I personally believe that it should come out of a meeting from the city of Lake Geneva or the town of Linn,” Weiss said. “I didn’t solicit (a proposal). We didn’t solicit any resident of the town of Linn to speak with the city of Lake Geneva’s fire group.”

He said of course, the Linn Fire and EMS Department still responds to north shore calls. Weiss said he believes every fire department in Walworth County also participates in a mutual aid agreement — MABAS — in which other departments are called out to calls, depending on the severity of the situation.

“In some cases, Lake Geneva isn’t utilized because other departments have water trucks and Lake Geneva does not,” Weiss said.

In others, under MABAS, Lake Geneva may respond to the north shore anyway, he said.

But one of the questions on Linn officials’ minds could be which community would respond to north shore calls faster — Williams Bay or Lake Geneva?

“I believe currently the response times from Williams Bay are adequate for the north shore, but that would be something to discuss at greater detail should the town of Linn board sit down with the city of Lake Geneva and should the city of Lake Geneva want to discuss it with the town of Linn,” Weiss said.

Has he been contacted by any city official on the subject? “Not as of yet,” Weiss said.

Does he plan to contact any city official? Weiss said that move would have to be the product of a board decision.

The five-year plan

Allis also mentioned her five-year plan idea in her March 29 candidate response in the Regional News. She mentioned this idea at the committee level prior to March, Weiss said.

He said it has been referred to the Protective Services Committee, which he also chairs. Weiss said the projected scope of this plan is to decide whether to incorporate services from nearby municipalities — which would require service agreements — and possibly looking at the idea of building a fire station.

On Tuesday, Polyock said he a five-year plan is “nonsense.” He said the town should work out a contract with Lake Geneva.

“I’m a firm believe that we ought to contract with Lake Geneva,” Polyock said, adding it worked for years prior. “You get fast response times that way.”

On Friday, Weiss said he doesn’t know how far the plan will reach yet. He said he imagines a cost analysis also would be “part of the process” during this re-evaluation.

“All I know are the facts, that we have the coverage and we’re going to revisit the situation,” Weiss said.