In November 2017, South Shore Fire Chief Stedman added a $500,000 line item to the 2018 proposed Village Budget to build a stand-alone EMS station. Not much was known about his plan because it was never reviewed or approved by the Oversight Board.
As the governmental body which oversees the operations and expenditures of the South Shore Fire Department and forwards recommendations to the governing authorities, it seemed logical that something as important as the construction of an EMS station would have begun with your approval.
As you probably know by now, just a few weeks after the 2018 Budget was adopted, the Village President made an offer on a vacant lot of land for this station before it even got to the Village Board for approval. A couple of weeks after that, the Zoning Board quickly approved a petition to rezone the property before neighbors were notified and before a public hearing was held - which is something they never do.
Naturally, property owners near the planned station were angry when they found out about it from the newspaper and not directly from the Village. They felt an EMS station situated in the middle of residential houses was inappropriate and would create disruption to their quality of life. They submitted a formal protest petition requiring a supermajority vote of the Village Board to move the project forward.
That is your fault.
You could have directed the Chief to speak with the neighbors personally. You could have held an informational meeting to explain how the station would operate and perhaps put their fears to rest. Instead, your lack of oversight led to a neighborhood insurrection which has made this process far more contentious and difficult to pass.
Chief Stedman told the Village Board he was going to build a 3800 square foot EMS station - including furnishings and land for “significantly less” than $500,000. Beyond that, he has offered no budget or projected costs.
A 3800 square foot building that meets the institutional codes required of governmental buildings would cost approximately $250 per square feet to build. That’s easily a million dollars when you factor in the land. It also doesn’t include furnishings, emergency power generators, specialized ventilation equipment for ambulance bays or hiring 6 additional EMT staff.
In 2016, Chief Stedman boasted Village emergency response times were in line with national standards. He said existing stations were more strategically located. Now, response and location is suddenly a big problem?
There is no doubt that reducing emergency response times should be a priority. Why hasn’t the Fire/EMS Oversight Board looked into expanding emergency vehicle preemption devices throughout the village which can reduce emergency travel time by more than 25%?
Traffic signal preemption devices not only get first responders to emergencies quicker - they do it safer by reducing the need for emergency vehicles to cross over into oncoming traffic when negotiating busy intersections. The entire metro area of Milwaukee uses them and Kenosha does too.
For the cost allocated in 2018 budget for an EMS Station which will surely be insufficient to complete, the Village could use those funds to equip dozens of intersections and reduce response times across the entire community - for everyone.
Mt. Pleasant already spends double on public safety than our neighbors in Caledonia do. We know we will spend millions on a complete fire station near the Foxconn development. This plan does not add up. It is your job to present a coherent plan for public safety and to find the most efficient ways to achieve our goals.
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