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Ozaukee County Communities Complete Phase I Feasibility Analysis of Fire & EMS Service Sharing Opportunities
First Response Full Study
First Response Study Brief
Recorded Webinar Presentation
Following an eight-month study of potential service-sharing opportunities across nine (9) paid-on-call fire departments in Ozaukee County, the Wisconsin Policy Forum (WPF) today released a report outlining the results of its independent analysis. The report, entitled First Response: Addressing Fire & Emergency Medical Service Challenges in Ozaukee County, represents a Phase I feasibility analysis on behalf of the ten separate jurisdictions that initiated the review. Participating communities included the Cities of Cedarburg, Mequon and Port Washington, the Towns of Belgium and Cedarburg, the Villages of Fredonia, Grafton, Saukville and Thiensville, and Waubeka.
After reviewing and analyzing operating budgets, capital plans, service call histories and personnel-related data of the participating departments, the Forum found that:
1. Calls for services across the nine departments have risen nearly 24% between 2015-2019.
2. EMS response times do not meet statewide and national averages and/or standards. Between turnout and travel time, average response times range from 7 - 14.5 minutes.
3. Departments are struggling to recruit and retain part-time or volunteer staff. In fact, even the better-staffed Ozaukee County departments do not have sufficient resources to manage a structure fire, and any major incident generally requires a call for mutual aid.
Upon concluding its review, Wisconsin Policy Forum did not recommend a specific consolidation approach or implementation plan. Rather, the report develops a range of tiered options and provides sufficient fiscal and programmatic analysis to allow policymakers the ability to determine if any of the identified options should be considered for more detailed analysis, refinement and potential implementation. These include:
Tier 1: Departments increase collaboration while maintaining independence. This could mean strategically stationing and jointly paying for full-time paramedic interceptors across the county, or an effort to boost the number of full-time shifts at strategic station locations when call volumes are high or staffing levels are low.
Tier 2: Partially consolidate the departments while moving toward a full-time staffing model. A hypothetical example is provided that illustrates a merger between Grafton and Saukville. Another scenario shows the nine existing departments merging into two departments: one in the northern part of the county and another in the southern portion.
Tier 3: Modeling of a single, consolidated department to serve all of Ozaukee County. One scenario approximates the staffing model used by the neighboring North Shore Fire Department (high-cost), while a second scenario shows a lower-priced approach that may more appropriately reflect Ozaukee County’s call volumes and density.
In asking the Forum to analyze these options, Ozaukee County leaders are not alone. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to explore enhanced service sharing and cooperation among regional Fire & EMS providers has become more common in Wisconsin and across the nation.
The report, which is available at www.wispolicyforum.org, provides potential options as a starting point for discussion amongst the participating entities. Over the next six weeks, Policy Forum staff will present their findings to each community’s governing body. From there, each municipality will determine if any of the options should be further discussed or analyzed.