Some municipal leaders said they will continue to do all they can to provide paramedic services residents of Milwaukee County have grown accustomed to, and that they will keep fighting to restore all of the $3 million County Executive Chris Abele took from the county’s paramedic program.
Others feel they have done all they can, and when county residents realize how lower funds impacts service, it will be the municipal leaders with clean hands.
“We’ve done all we can do. The blood will not lay at our feet. It will lay squarely at the feet of the County Board and the county executive,” Greendale Village President John Hermes said at an Intergovernmental Cooperation Council meeting on Monday in Franklin.
President of the ICC and Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor agreed.
“I’m not sure that the County Board or the County Executive realize that there could be holes in the deliver of service,” Taylor said. “You can have holes in other types of services; here, if you have holes in the service, people actually die.”
Franklin, like Greenfield and other ICC municipalities provide paramedic service to other communities. Taylor and Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke conceded the decreased subsidy could force that to change.
“I want to reassure Greendale and Hales Corners that we’re not going to abandon our neighbors, but from a financial standpoint … we still report to the common council and the taxpayers of our community,” Neitzke said.
Last week, the County Board voted to restore $1.5 million of the $3 million stripped by Abele’s budget for the program. The board's amendment calls for the current county paramedic contract being voided and a new one being created. That new contract also calls for funding distributions determined by the County Board and not the ICC or local fire chiefs and asks municipalities to work toward “creating cooperative efforts.”
Some leaders expressed anger at the County Board for voiding the contract. Several others were disappointed, even insulted at the prerequisites for the funding, particularly the notion that departments must look more formally at consolidation.
“The North Shore is already a consolidated fire department,” he said. “It’s no big secret that the south side communities have looked into consolidation. Working in a provision about consolidation … I don’t know if it was the intention of the authors of the (amendment) was to be abrasive, but that’s how the document comes across. It’s like a document written to a 3-year-old. You get the candy if you do this, this, this.”
Fox Point President Michael West said it was important the issue not become a Milwaukee-versus-the-suburbs issue. The City of Milwaukee is a member of the ICC and was an active participant the last time the ICC and the county negotiated the terms of the paramedic contract, he said.
But Glendale Mayor Jerome Tepper said that’s exactly what it’s turning into.
“I have not heard from the City of Milwaukee to talk about the fairness of this proposal by the County Board,” Tepper said. “They’d have the ability to step up and change this.”
South Milwaukee Mayor Tom Zepecki said he has lost trust in the County Board and Abele.
“It drives me crazy to think why we would ever want to sign a contract again,” he said. “Why would we entertain a proposal by Chris Abele. He’s willing to sacrifice his own legacy and condemn the county paramedic program to oblivion.
“There’s a lot of politics going on. There’s a lot of collusion and a lot of shenanigans going on here. This is politics at its worst and as far as I’m concerned, I don’t’ think I can trust the county again with any agreement.”
According to Taylor, the ICC will continue to try to persuade the County Board or Abele to reinstate the $3 million he initially cut. But several leaders said the ICC had done what it could and that it’s now up to Abele.
“We’ve had a lot of overtures in the past, but I think we’re on a new page right now,” Rivers Hills President Robert Brunner said.
Added Oak Creek Mayor Dick Bolender, “The time for talk is over. It gets worse each year. We send money their way all the time and nothing comes back. We just talk, and talk and talk. … We’re supposed to be the leaders of our communities. Either do something or shut up and go away.”