Fire District Discussion Will Move Forward

Northern Door officials heard enough at a Feb. 21 presentation about creating a fire district to move the conversation forward.

Jack Edwards, Chief of the Lake Country Fire department in southeast Wisconsin, spoke to firefighters and elected officials at the presentation about his experience in merging three departments in 2010.

Egg Harbor Fire Chief Steve Schopf said Edwards didn’t present a slam dunk case for merging Northern Door departments, but the potential cost savings is reason enough to continue talking.

“Let’s say each department has a backup pumper,” Schopf said. “Well, if we merge, do all of our departments really need a backup? Maybe instead of five we have three, so you wouldn’t replace a couple over time.”

With the large price tag of pumpers and engines, the savings in replacing equipment can add up quickly. But finances aren’t the only reason the fire district idea is gaining traction. Several departments are struggling to find enough manpower to sustain their volunteer forces.

Still, Schopf said firefighters take a lot of pride in their individual departments, creating apprehension about a merger.

“There’s a fear of losing individuality,” Schopf said. “That’s the biggest thing. Each of our departments takes pride in their equipment, their stations, and their name. The firefighters are just trying to absorb the information now. It answered a lot of questions, and maybe raised others. Now I think the elected officials have to have more conversations.”

Liberty Grove Town Chairman John Lowry was unable to attend, but he said his view remains unchanged from when he convened a discussion about a merger nearly two years ago.

“I think it’s something that is going to happen inevitably, and hopefully sooner than later,” Lowry said.

Egg Harbor President Nancy Fisher said she’s in favor of a merger as well.

“It was a very informative presentation geared mainly at the fire department side of the issue,” she said. “Now it’s up to the municipalities to pick up the ball and figure out how it could work. It’s not as scary for us in the village because we’ve had a merged department with the town of Egg Harbor since 1964.”

Fisher said she expects the individual municipalities to discuss the issue before scheduling a joint meeting. She applauded Sister Bay/ Liberty Grove Fire Chief Chris Hecht and the departments for bringing Edwards to the community to share his experience.

“It’s great that this was originated by the fire departments,” Fisher said. “This would have a different tone if it were something that were being forced upon them by the municipalities.”