The Chippewa Fire District is set to change after a town decided to branch off on its own.
The town of Wheaton town board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to leave the Chippewa Fire District at the end of 2020, a partnership consisting of the village of Lake Hallie and the towns of Lafayette, Hallie and Howard.
The next step to formally leave the district is to send a formal letter signaling its intent to depart, which has yet to be submitted by the town.
Wayne Miller, member of the Chippewa Fire District Fire Board and the Board of Commissioners from Wheaton, said the decision was mostly financial one. The town provides an average of $200,000 annually to the district, and they believe they could do as good or better of a job serving their community on their own.
“This has been something that’s been building for a couple years,” Miller said. “The needs have changed from what they used to be. Everybody used to be rural, and it seems like the past couple years Lafayette and Lake Hallie have gone toward more residential. Part of it is financial, because we feel we can do it at a better rate. We’ll have more say in how the money is spent, what kind of equipment it’s spent on, we think our response time will be better and that’s what the rationale is.”
Although this won’t affect the 2020 budget for the district because Wheaton is contractually obligated, it will affect the 2021 district budget and force the other towns to fill a $200,000 hole in the budget.
David Staber, president of the Chippewa Fire District Fire Board and a commissioner from Lafayette, said there are still conditions Wheaton must meet before its request to leave the Chippewa Fire District is approved.
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“There were some conditions they put into their motion (Tuesday) night that they have to meet before they leave the district,” Staber said. “So, right now it’s not going to impact us at all. When and if they do leave the district, that leaves about a $200,000 hole in the budget that’s going to have to be adjusted to.”
Gary Spilde, vice president of the fire district board and a commissioner from Lake Hallie, said while the situation is unfortunate, there isn’t much any member of the board or the district can do to rectify the situation and keep the district intact.
“We’ll have to take a look at our budget, because it’s going to be a shortfall in what we were expecting,” Spilde said. “We’ll work through it, as they’ve made the decision in their local government to leave evidently and there isn’t much we can do about it at this point.”
Although the decision to leave will affect fire services in all five towns, Miller said the decision was made during an extended period of time and was resolved with majority agreement in Wheaton.
“The decision was made in the best interest of all of the people of Wheaton,” Miller said. “A lot of time and thought went into it, but when it was all done being discussed we were all unanimous on the way we thought we should go.”
Wheaton must submit a letter of intent to leave the district by Oct. 1.