THIENSVILLE, Wis. - The fire departments in Mequon and Thiensville could soon merge to address staffing and financial problems. On Monday, April 18 in Thiensville, staff outlined why they view this change as the best path forward.
The village is home to a little more than 3,200 people, yet its calls for service have jumped more than 40% in four years.
Thiensville takes great pride in its history, and the fire chief says this merger could be the next chapter.
At 165 years old, the Thiensville Fire Department is technically older than the village itself, but with age have come challenges.
"The existing model is broken, and we've probably pressed it longer than we should've," said Chief Brian Reiels.
Under the department's current pay-per-call model, Chief Reiels says only five of the department's 30-plus employees are doing about 60% of the work. Combined with rising call volumes, rising costs and fewer volunteers, Village President Van Mobley says the best path toward sustainability is to merge with the Mequon Fire Department.
"This one allows us to give us the greatest amount of coverage with the least amount of staffing and the highest quality in terms of training, and then we’re able to combine some equipment and make some savings," said Mobley.
Village staff presented the merger plan to the board Monday night. Thiensville would contribute close to 16% of the budget with the goal of transitioning to full-time EMS services by 2027.
However, some residents and trustees question if the deal is the right move, including fears the village could lose its fire service tradition.
"The idea that this is a real merger, I'm struggling with that, too," said David Lange, Thiensville trustee. "When two entities combine, one of them is eight times the size of the other, is it really a merger, or is it really an acquisition?"
Mequon has already approved its side of the merger. The Thiensville Village Committee of the Whole will vote May 2 after hearing public comment.
If passed, fire and EMS operations would merge as early as July 1.