What's News in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

Fire & Rescue Department
(Funds will be allocated from other budget areas to cover Fire & Rescue Department restructure)

Village administration is proposing to make changes to the Fire & Rescue Department without raising property taxes. Recently, the Pleasant Prairie Fire & Rescue Department was evaluated by the ISO (Insurance Services Office, Inc.) and the Village ISO rating was raised to Class 3, a rating held nationwide by only 3.4% of those evaluated. The major factor behind the improved rating relates to the Village water supply. Additionally, department staff responding to emergency calls have consistently received “Excellent” ratings from those returning answers to questions about services they received. During the first six months of 2011, 156 answers were returned in 26 surveys. Out of the 156 responses, Fire & Rescue staff earned 150 “Excellent” responses and six “Good” responses.

Despite the positive public response and an improved ISO rating for the department, difficulty in recruiting and retaining younger department members led Village administration to take a closer look at the base structure of the department. Recognizing that recruitment and retention of high quality personnel is a major component for the success of the department, the Village sought assistance from an outside party to gather enough information to begin addressing the matter.

After gathering information related to the department, a consultant identified specific areas needing improvement and compiled a list of recommendations. Areas identified as needing improvement included: staffing levels - including recruitment and retention; frequency of call backs and time spent working; communication and leadership; organization; disciplinary actions; uniforms and communal meals; and others.

Following the information gathering stage, recommendations were proposed to address the matters identified. The following recommendations were made:
• assess staffing levels and develop a plan for the expansion of the full-time department;
• update job descriptions for all full-time positions and provide revised job descriptions to each department member;
• review and modify call back procedures to ensure coverage while eliminating the potential for vacancies;
• review the use of Paid-on-Call staff, including training, response times, utilization on calls and job description;
• conduct a national search in response to the current Chief’s retirement;
• have the Police and Fire Commission appoint an interim Chief;
• review hiring procedures for full-time staff;
• establish new eligibility list for FireMedics and recruit new FireMedics throughout the State;
• establish a Rules and Regulations Committee to review and revise Standard Operating Procedures, rules, regulations and policies, including a discussion of communal meals;
• establish a Safety Committee to discuss safety issues and make recommendations;
• establish an Equipment and Apparatus Committee to discuss the use, purchase and elimination of equipment;
• establish a Uniform Committee to discuss uniform options and establish a uniform policy;
• establish a training schedule that relies on Lieutenants to utilize their knowledge and develop leadership skills, and do everything possible to adhere to that schedule;
• open lines of communication between management and staff, and institute a suggestion program; and
• establish a training schedule for management related to leadership, communication, management and human resources.

Regarding staffing levels - including recruitment and retention, following are comments from the assisting consultant.

“The authorized staffing level of the F & R Department is, and has been, for some time, below other comparable communities. The City of South Milwaukee, which covers 4.8 square miles with a population of approximately 21,000, has 24 FT positions. The Village of Greendale, which covers approximately 5.5 square miles with a population of approximately 14,500 has 19 FT positions. Finally, the Village of Caledonia, which covers approximately 45 square miles with a population of approximately 25,000 has 40 FT Positions... While development within the Village of Pleasant Prairie has grown, the F& R Department has not. At the time of this assessment, there were 19 authorized FireMedic positions, one of which was not funded and 4 of which were vacant, resulting in 26% of the positions being unfilled. By comparison to other communities, the staffing level of the Pleasant Prairie F & R Department is significantly different.”

The Village of Pleasant Prairie covers approximately 34 square miles and has a population of approximately 19,720.

In a continued effort to provide a high level of service at a reasonable cost, the Village is taking steps to act on the proposed recommendations. As part of the 2012 budget, Village administration is proposing a shift in the structure of the department from relying more heavily on Paid-on-Call members (very much like volunteers) to the hiring of seven additional full-time members. The addition of seven full-time members would allow for four FireMedics to man a station and respond to both fire and rescue calls. With the current reliance on Paid-on-Call personnel, there is no way of guaranteeing how many personnel will respond to a call. The addition would also alleviate call backs, providing more predictable family time and less overtime for full-time members.

“Our current staff has been performing at a phenomenal level with the resources they’ve had available,” explained Mike Pollocoff, Village Administrator. “However, the time has come to stop the erosion of a core service and to create a strong departmental foundation that is ready to meet the public safety needs at hand and in coming years with reasonable expectations for staffing, predictability and safety.”

Village administration is proposing to make the changes without increasing property taxes. Changes to the department structure are estimated at approximately $540,000. The Village is proposing to use funds previously planned for roadway improvements to pay for additional full-time FireMedics. Though the shift in funding would slow the rate at which the Village rebuilds Village-owned roads, staff will continue its ongoing spring, summer and fall road maintenance routines. The 2012 budget includes one major road construction project, the reconstruction of a portion of 116th Street between Sheridan Road and 39th Avenue.

“Over the past many years, members of the Village Board and staff have worked within incredibly efficient budgets to provide a very high level of service. Over time, however, this can erode parts of your core services,” explained Pollocoff. “It’s simply time to address this matter in order to maintain a higher level of service needed now and in the near future.”

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