Viewpoint: Don't sell SCEMS to Lakeview Ambulance
Council members and Mayor O'Connor, I am writing to express my concern with the city's proposal to sell SCEMS to Lakeview Ambulance and the way it has been handled so far.
We have an outstanding EMS service that has been serving Hudson and Western Wisconsin since 1970 by people who live and work in the community.
So far the only reason that's been presented is it will save the city money. I am entirely against this proposal and believe in the long run it will cost the city more by selling it.
I also have questions that need to be answered because this entire process has been anything but transparent.
• Mr. Mayor, when you were asked last November during an interview prior to the election if there were any areas where the city could reduce spending, you responded no. Now all of a sudden eliminating SCEMS is going to save the city and taxpayers money? In 2016 the budget for the ambulance service was $180,900 or 1.8 percent of the city's budget. The ambulance service is also one of the few revenue generating departments the city owns and you believe eliminating this vital service will save the taxpayers money. It will definitely compromise the response times in times of need.
• When it became clear the city was going to pursue selling SCEMS the residents made it clear they wanted a forum to express their desires. You promised in March there would be public forum to gather citizens' input but as of now none has been scheduled. When are you going to make good on this promise?
• I have attended as many meetings as possible regarding this topic. Your and the council's actions in not allowing time for the citizens who you represent to speak is unacceptable.
• Why are all extra meetings regarding this subject scheduled at the last minute with barely any notice? It's quite obvious you don't want to hear from your constituents or the heads of other departments that this will affect. At the last meeting regarding the communications issue, the meeting notice was given barely 25 hours prior and St Croix County Emergency Director Stephen T'Kach found out an hour prior. Since the issue being discussed was how Lakeview would be dispatched and the fact that their radios are not compatible with St. Croix County's system I think you would have made sure T'Kach not only knew about the meeting in a timely fashion but that he would have been fully prepared. I believe he did an excellent job responding to the issues presented to him on such short notice.
He also pointed out that we just spent over $8 million to upgrade our current communications system. Not utilizing this system is an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars.
5. If the intent was to save the city money by outsourcing EMS why wasn't a bid for services put out? There are other EMS service providers in the area. To enter into exclusive negotiations with Lakeview without exploring other options isn't in the best interests of the taxpayers. Every other project the city does requires a bid for services to put out and the best deal for the city is chosen.
6. What is the exact cost savings that we as taxpayers can expect and what are the long term expenses to the city once the initial contract expires? You only have to look north to Burnett County to see what a great deal they got by selling their EMS services.
7. What is the plan for first responders in the city? Currently townships have them but there's no plan in place for the city. Relying on the fire department isn't feasible. They respond to an average of 430 fire calls a year as it is and adding almost 1,700 EMS calls to their run total without full-time staffing is not sustainable.
I hope that you truly have the best interests of residents and taxpayers in mind but from all of your and the council's actions so far it doesn't appear so. Prompt answers to my questions would be appreciated.
Michael Saggese is a resident of District 6.