Southern Door Fire Department Approves Budget

The Southern Door Fire Department (SDFD) approved its first budget without the Town of Nasewaupee’s financial support.

The $249,815.24 budget for 2024 – passed Sept. 27 by the department’s fire board – will be footed entirely by the Village of Forestville and the towns of Forestville and Clay Banks. Nasewaupee split off from the department effective Sept. 28 to form Nasewaupee Fire Rescue (NFR).

The amounts the three municipalities will pay will increase because equalized values of properties within their municipalities have increased, but the tax rate will remain at 55 cents per $1,000 of equalized value. Still, this will only fund $143,282.85 of the budget. Another $20,000 will come from a state program, leaving more than $85,000 being transferred from the department’s general fund to cover the remaining budgeted expenses.

Within the budget is nearly $80,000 in payments in fiscal year 2024 for a new pumper truck the SDFD received this year.

Personnel Departures

Because some of the firefighters and emergency medical responders in the SDFD left to join NFR, the board approved a series of personnel departures recommended by Fire Chief Rich Olson.

Olson noted he received one letter of transfer to NFR and four letters of retirement, effective upon Nasewaupee leaving the SDFD. Because of the SDFD’s reorganization and downsizing, Olson recommended the dismissal of 15 members, who included Jacob Schartner, NFR’s chief.

Olson said the SDFD’s roster will have around 35 members with firefighters and emergency medical responders.

In his report to the board, Olson said his efforts as chief to try to unify the SDFD weren’t enough, and he also alluded to the divisions in the SDFD that led to Nasewaupee splitting off.

“It seems that over time there has been a division within the staff,” he said. “As the split has evolved, it seems that like-minded people have sorted themselves together at separate stations. As we move forward, I hope these stations work together amongst themselves to serve the community, which has been the common goal all along.”

In concluding his remarks, Olson said he “will also remember those who have supported me through those challenging times, and I will never forget those who made the times challenging.”

Negotiating the Split and Bylaw Changes

In his remarks as the fire board president, Loren Uecker thanked Olson and SDFD personnel who gathered information on prices on the fire station in Nasewaupee and the trucks in the station to help negotiate the department’s split.

Uecker also recognized the board chairs of the SDFD’s three remaining municipalities for their involvement in the negotiations. In the end, Nasewaupee paid around $280,000 for equipment it purchased, with approximately $131,000 going to the Town of Forestville, $105,000 to the Town of Clay Banks and $44,000 to the Village of Forestville.

The fire board also approved a series of bylaw changes. There will now be six members on the fire board – two representatives from each of the three municipalities. For capital purchases, such as buying a fire truck, the bylaws now require at least one member from each municipality to vote in favor to be able to go ahead with those expenditures.

One point of contention that led up to Nasewaupee splitting off from the SDFD was when the fire board backed a truck purchase on a majority vote that neither of the two members from the town supported.  

Donation to SDFD

At the end of the annual meeting, Olson handed Uecker a letter with a $20,000 check from the Lila M. Olson survivors’ trust that was made out to the SDFD as a donation to have an electronic LED sign at the Forestville station.

The fire chief is a trustee of the survivors’ trust of Lila M. Olson, a Forestville resident who passed away in May, with the SDFD named as a beneficiary.