Full time Brooklyn Fire and EMS chief, reductions on hold

A decision to institute a fulltime fire chief and a managment merger in combination with a reduction of officers for the Brooklyn Fire and EMS Fire District is on hold after the Brooklyn Fire and EMS Protection Commission couldn’t come to unanimous approval on the proposed 2021 budget.

A decision on creating full-time fire chief and a management merger for the Brooklyn Fire and EMS Fire Protection Commission has hit a stalemate.

Members of the Brooklyn Village Board balked at a proposal that would install a full-time fire chief. Under the proposal, management responsibilities would be merged together under the fire chief with an assistant fire chief and EMS director and the number of officers would be reduced from 13 to nine in the 45-person department in the 2021 operating budget.

“I have no further comments until a strategic plan identifies a path forward for our wonderful Fire/EMS Department,” Village of Brooklyn President and fire commissioner Brit Springer said.

Brooklyn Fire and EMS Protection Commission Vice President John Marx said the proposal for a full-time fire chief, partially offset by the reduction of four officer positions, will have cost the five munciipalties that comprise the commission $29,876. That would equal a 9.1% increase for the EMS department and a 7.3% increase for the fire department in the 2021 operating budget.

The full-time fire chief position was proposed with a salary of $83,066 that includes health insurance and benefits, Marx said. The EMS department budget would pay for 60% of that position, with the fire department picking up the rest of the tab.

Marx said the fire department savings for the commision would be $20,150 and $33,040 in EMS expenses if it reduced the fire and EMS departments, respectively.

The Brooklyn Fire and EMS District serves about 3,500 residents in Dane, Green and Rock counties in the south central part of the state. In addition to the village, the towns of Oregon, Brooklyn, Rutland and Union all contribute funding to the district.

Of those municipalities, the village is the only one where its board didn’t approve the proposal.

At a commission meeting Wednesday, Sept. 23, Springer made a motion to approve the 2021 budget that did not include the staffing changes from the proposal. No one seconded Springer’s motion, and a vote wasn’t taken.

In a joint commission meeting with all District municipalities the week prior on Sept. 16, the full-time fire chief and budget was discussed, but a decision was delayed.

Marx said since the proposal wasn’t approved, the total funding for fire and EMS will revert back to an increase of 10% from the 2020 operating budget. That will put the fire department’s budget for 2021 at $196,876, and the EMS budget will be $203,058.

Marx said the Brooklyn Fire and EMS District has looked at a management merger for two years because of the difficulty departments have had with staffing. Marx said the commission has hired some part-time EMTS to help address the staffing issues, but working schedules of staff makes consistency hard.

“A lot of people who live in Brooklyn work in Madison and they can’t respond like they should,” he said. “The people who have businesses in Brooklyn have a hard time getting away from their businesses. We need EMTs at the station during the day.”

Marx said if support for a full-time fire chief is still there from the townships, he could foresee the discussion about changing the structure of the district’s departments coming back to the commission in next year’s budget planning.

“We need to have all five in the district (in agreement) to make it work,” he said.