The jointly-owned Chetek Fire District Board will be restructured, following a meeting of the Town of Chetek Town Board, the City of Chetek Common Council and fire board members on July 13.
Chetek Mayor Jeff Martin said the current agreement between the city and town was good, but he requested some housekeeping changes to the board. One, to have the fire chief be a non-voting member of the board, and two, to have board members serve two-year terms instead of a one-year term.
The agreement, established in 1995, created the fire district, with the town and city as co-owners. The four-member fire board provides oversight to the fire department, which is managed day-to-day by a fire chief, currently Ryan Olson.
The town and city pay for equipment and infrastructure, as well as a portion of operating subsidies. Other townships that are partially covered by the Chetek Fire Department, such as the Town of Prairie Lake, pay a $50,000 fire protection agreement for fire coverage, but they do not own any of the department’s assets.
The city’s concern was that only representatives from the owners—the City and Town—should have voting authority on the fire district board.
In regard to making the chief a non-voting board member, John Postle, from Chetek Township, was concerned about removing the autonomy of the chief in handling day-to-day business.
Chetek council member Terry Hight said it had to be spelled out, clearly, that the chief was a non-voting member of the board. Chetek council member Scott Bachowski said it didn’t mean the board would micromanage the department; Olson would still run the department, under board oversight.
Joe Atwood, a fire board member and former fire chief, said he never voted on the board when he headed the department. Olson said he never voted either. The town, city and fire board members agreed in spelling out the chief was a non-voting member.
Martin noted people from Prairie Lake Township had been appointed to the board at some point in the past, but the city’s and towns agreement did not allow that. Martin said he was not pointing any blame on anyone. As owners, the City and Town of Chetek are responsible for the department, it’s assets and in following the agreement in place, he said.
Martin said the city attorney told him, if Sioux Creek and Prairie Lake townships were added as owners of the fire district, the agreement would have to be rewritten. Chetek council member Earl Grover said Sioux Creek or Prairie Lake board members can come to the meeting, but they cannot vote on the fire board.
Board members agreed there should be a reorganization of the board at its next meeting, Thursday, July 29, to appoint only Chetek Town and Chetek City members. Ron Latcham and Earl Grover will represent the city.
Martin suggested a fifth, at-large board member could be added. City Clerk/Treasurer Carmen Newman said the town and city would have to approve measure separately before it became effective.
Newman suggested that the fire protection agreements with the other townships be updated and redistributed, so that each municipality knows how fees and costs are calculated.