Testimony from the Village of Mt. Pleasant Public Hearing of the rezone petition for a proposed EMS Station held on February 8, 2018 by A Better Mt. Pleasant contributor Kelly Gallaher.
Several years ago, when the Village voted to close the fire station in Lake Park, it came as a surprise to many in the community. However, in reality, consultant studies had been commissioned which recommended its closing, repair and updating costs of the existing building were discussed and considered, and an analysis of emergency calls produced in the area were highlighted to provide a clearer picture for how the decision was made. Even though it remained a controversial issue, there were facts and costs as part of the overall discussion.
It is also important to point out the discussion of the Fire Station closure began appropriately in the Village Fire/EMS Oversight Board as part of a reorganization plan - a plan - which was then forwarded to the appropriate governing body - the Village Board.
I can locate no agenda item reflecting the discussion of the need to build an EMS station by the Fire/EMS Oversight Board. I can locate no action to approve a plan to build an EMS station by the Fire/EMS Oversight Board. If such a discussion did happen - we could not know because of the 7 Fire/EMS meetings which took place in 2017 - the minutes of only 2 meetings have been published and posted. The only time I was able to locate any discussion of an EMS station by the Oversight Commission was a few weeks ago in January and that was to report that an offer on vacant land had been made and architectural drawings had been received.
Under whose authority and recommendation was this done?
I attended the budget hearing when this idea was first suggested. Trustees told the Chief they needed a plan and and outline before moving forward. Three weeks after the November budget hearing which first introduced this idea, the Village President signed a contract offer to purchase a lot of land. Two weeks after that, the contract offer went to the zoning board for approval - with no public hearing and no public notification.
As of tonight, Chief Stedman has offered no projections on building or maintenance costs. There have been no staffing or overtime budgets presented. No estimates for furnishings and equipment. No projected growth relative to EMS response has been conducted.
The Chief has admitted that this may not be a permanent station and could be repurposed as a home at a later time - but at what cost? We don’t know, because virtually no homework has been done which might tell us if building an actual fire station which could remain operational for decades might be a better investment.
At the last regular Village Board meeting, Community Development Director Sam Schultz was asked by trustees why this hearing was scheduled after the zoning board had already met and voted on the rezone petition - which has always been the practice of this village - and basically every other municipality. After some discussion about whether it was technically legal - Mr. Schultz admitted it was due to an error. Mistakes happen, however, this error happened to satisfy a contingency in the offer to purchase which stipulated approval from the zoning commission was required to make the offer binding.
That news is not much comfort to the residents in the area who feel they have been left out of the process - because they were. To their concerns on location and lack of planning, Chief Stedman said they were too emotional and he was the expert.
Building a EMS Station may be a fine idea. However, it doesn’t take an expert to see the development for this particular plan has been incomplete, lacking both due process and due diligence.
I believe this “plan” such as it is, is unworthy of a vote by the board at this time and should not be moved forward until the appropriate oversight and recommendations have been reviewed and put forward. When it comes to public safety, residents deserve a careful and detailed plan. This is not that.