Mutual aid expansion urged
Monday, April 14, 2014 7:00 PM
MENOMINEE - When 10 people were rescued from the icy Menominee River Sunday night, it was thanks to a joint effort between Marinette and Menominee fire departments. An agreement between the two communities allows for mutual response calls. Menominee also has a similar agreement with the Menominee/Ingallston Township Fire Department. Menominee Fire Chief Mark Petersen would like to see the agreement expanded to other communities in Menominee County.
Petersen addressed members of the Judicial and Legislative/Personnel and Labor Committee Monday to make his pitch. "This is really important," he said. "Something big is going to happen and we're going to be left standing there watching a block burn down. I don't think you guys understand that."
Petersen reminded the council that there are only a dozen firefighters in the department for around-the-clock service and that a major incident would exhaust the manpower in a hurry. The agreement he furnished the committee was the same one in place with the other two departments, however, it met with resistance from Committee Member Bill Plemel.
"I don't see a real benefit to the city. If we have to go out into the county we have to go under their direction, we can't bill them. I don't see what the advantage is," said Plemel. "This has been a hot topic for many, many years. The fact is, if we don't have enough firefighters, it has been suggestion a long time ago, that we start incorporating volunteers along with our regular fire department. That's what you're saying here."
Petersen said training and outfitting volunteers would be an added expense for the city. He said with an aid agreement the other departments would take care of their own costs in those areas and that each department would be responsible for travel and overtime.
City Manager consultant Don Bievers explained that the advantage to having the agreement with other communities is that the city would have a resource on standby that it could utilize when necessary. At the same time the agreement spells out ways for departments to opt out of a call in situation.
Committee Member Frank Pohlmann expressed concerns about the plan as well but also put stock in the experience and knowledge of Petersen.
"If you are standing here in front of us and you are saying, 'I am the fire chief and I recommend you do it because it's for the good of the people,' than I have a difficult time saying no to that," he said. "On balance I would support it, but that might not be the case."
Committee members agreed to revisit the countywide service agreement before sending it onto the council. One item members wanted to work on deals with the city's ability to withdraw from it.