Mequon, Thiensville fire departments merge by July, pending final vote

Pending a final vote, the Mequon and Thiensville fire and EMS departments will merge as soon as July. The decision came Monday, May 2 after some emotional public comments. 

Some Thiensville homeowners said they're worried the merger would mean the loss of the fire station and actually worsen response times, but ultimately, the board listened to its fire chief who, just weeks from retirement, wanted the department to be stable before he's gone.

Based on his 33 years of experience, Thiensville Fire Chief Brian Reiels said there is no question that merging fire and EMS services with Mequon under a new, full-time department is the best solution for a problem that isn't going away. 

"We, in the fire service, are really good at pulling rabbits out of our hat," said Reiels. "Frankly, we've gotten to a point where it's very, very delicate. Literally, on a day-to-day basis, I worry about staffing."

Thiensville's Committee of the Whole gave its first vote of approval Monday night, a 5-1 vote.

Per the agreement, the village would contribute close to 16% of the budget and get two of the five seats on the Board of Directors.

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The vote came after nearly two hours of public comment, including concerns that Thiensville isn't getting a fair deal.

"It seems like it's being pushed through quickly," said Andrea Kuhl. "Like, what's the hurry? Can't we just slow down?"

Their worries include slower response times, the future loss of their local fire station and the village's identity going up in smoke.

"If you eliminate the fire department, then only the police department and the DPW stands between us and having no village at all," said Kevin Kuhl. 

The Thiensville Village Board will vote to approve the merger contract with Mequon in two weeks.

Services would be shared in July, with the Southern Ozaukee Fire and EMS Department officially launching next year.