Two area fire departments announce merger - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Two area fire departments announce merger

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MARATHON COUNTY (WAOW) -

Elected officials from the Town of Rib Mountain and the Village of Weston announced Tuesday their intentions to combine their fire and emergency medical services and create a new department.

According to a news release, the new public safety department will be called the South Area Fire and Emergency Response (S.A.F.E.R) district. Officials say the new district is scheduled to be created by charter later this month. The district will provide firefighting and emergency medical response services to the two communities.

Both village and town officials say a single entity would provide more cost-effective, efficient and expanded firefighting and EMS services.

"This collaboration will create opportunities for savings, whether it's training, response time, equipment replacement, etc.," said Rib Mountain Town Chairman Allen Opall. "Our communities have a history of working well together, and we have much in common."

This merger would mean both Weston and Rib Mountain fire departments would be abolished and SAFER would be created. That means every firefighter and EMT in either department would lose their jobs by the end of the year and have to reapply in hopes of keeping them.

Tuesday's announcement was the first time the proposal was discussed publicly.

"Now that the draft is finished we have the opportunity to put it in front of everybody and have it reviewed talked about and considered," Weston Administrator Daniel Guild said.

But taxpayers say that's concerning.

"They didn't say anything, he just said they've had private meetings, why are they having private meetings, it should be open to the public," Rib Mountain resident Wayne Wozniak said.

"There's budgets to get done and there's much work to get done, certainly we'll try to be as up front and communicative with everybody as possible," Guild explained.

According to a news release, SAFER will staff its department combining both career full-time and paid-on-call emergency responders. But it is unclear how many employees will be hired.

A joint meeting is scheduled for next week where they will review the SAFER charter document and hold a public hearing on the Fire/EMS service cooperation plan. If approved, the communities will select representatives to serve on the SAFER governing board on the same night. SAFER would begin operations on January 1, 2014.

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