Town of Holland (WXOW) — Fire protection services are debated every budget season in the Town of Holland as board supervisors look to save money for residents while also providing safety.
On Wednesday night, supervisors will discuss seeking bids for those services outside of the Holmen Area Fire Department.
“An issue that comes up every budget season, because the fire budget tends to grow much faster than any other budget item,” said Bob Stupi, supervisor with the Town of Holland.
“It’s not a bad thing for everyone to do,” said Steve Johnston, president of the Holmen Area Fire Board. “Is there a way of providing services to your taxpayers that will meet the needs of your municipality but also save you money?”
This is not the first time the Town of Holland has re-evaluated their role within the Holmen Area Fire Department. The agreement was changed in 2015 to an equalized contract. That means the Village of Holmen, Town of Onalaska, and Town of Holland pay for services based on property value.
A new advisory budget for the department suggests a large tax increase for the three municipalities.
“What is it going to take monetarily to get this fire district up to an adequate level? That number was around 40-percent,” said Johnston. “There’s no way you can do that inside one year.”
Stupi estimates that the nearly 40-percent increase in costs laid out in the advisory budget for the Holmen Area Fire Department would be half of the town budget. That would take away money used on parks, roads, and other services for residents.
Stupi says even the more realistic 15- to 20-percent increase would be too much for a single budget item.
“We start to think about is this the best way for us to have fire protection for our town? We went through this a couple of years ago, reworked the agreement,” he said. “Not sure the agreement as it exists is working for the town.”
“Change can be difficult, but we’re heading in a positive direction,” said Johnston. “We’re increasing staffing. We’re including training, and we’re also improving on what we have with our new equipment.”
Stupi says the Town of Holland has shouldered a lot of costs recently, including one-third of the payment for a new Quint fire engine.
“To see if other board members want to pursue this, if we want to put it out for bids and see if we get any responses,” said Stupi. “Maybe the board won’t want to pursue it at all, and say, ‘Let’s just work with the existing fire agreement,’ which is fine as well. I just want to have all options on the table.”
The Town of Holland is still under contract with the Holmen Area Fire Department; however, Stupi says there are ways of breaking that contract if that is the decision supervisors make on Wednesday night.
If it is decided to look at outside bids, it is expected to be a quick turnaround. Stupi says the town would need to accept a bid offer by the end of September or early October.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 12 in the Holland Town Hall Board Room.