By Michael S. Hoey

CORRESPONDENT

Town of Delavan residents who attended a listening session last week about the possibility of sharing services with the City of Delavan said they’re not interested in combining public safety functions.

About 50 people attended a meeting at Town Hall on Feb. 19 to give input about the idea of sharing services with neighboring municipalities.

Some residents who attended said they expected the board to have a proposal or idea on the floor for them to comment about. Instead, the board allowed residents to comment about any area in which they would like the town to explore sharing services including parks, recreation, fire and rescue, police, public works and lake management.

Town Chairman Ryan Simons said the town is exploring options and no agreements or proposals are on the table. He said the purpose of the listening session was to get input from the residents about any areas they might want the board to explore.

Residents asked what the board wants to accomplish and what effect sharing services would have on the police and fire and rescue departments.

Simons repeatedly asked people to make suggestions for the board to pursue, but residents instead requested that the town not consider shared services for police or fire and rescue.

One resident suggested the board look into sharing public works services. The town has some agreements in place with the City of Delavan for public works, and the resident suggested looking into further sharing is more savings can be achieved.

Resident input

One resident asked if citizens will have any say in future plans such as in a referendum. Simons said the board will have two more listening sessions at 1 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. March 19 at Community Park. Simons said he would like to see any future proposal that would cost the town significant money go to referendum.

Otherwise Simons said any proposal would have to go through the proper committee, a Committee of the Whole meeting and a Town Board meeting before getting adopted. Residents would have the opportunity to be heard at any of those levels.

“We will try to listen to what people have to say and act accordingly,” Simons said.

Supervisor Herb Sessner suggested the town hold a referendum on any potential proposal for shared services. Simons said the board could consider that but did not think it would be efficient to bring every possible proposal to a vote.

Cause of consideration

Simons said the town’s budget is very tight, and it might have to reduce the level of services it provides unless revenues go up or cuts are made. He said sharing services is a popular way in the state right now to handle budget challenges. The Wisconsin Towns Association provided the town with 85 examples of shared service agreements to study.

Simons said the impetus for looking into shared services came from the city. He said the town received a letter from Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis and City of Delavan Administrator Denise Pieroni asking to meet with town officials to discuss it in late January. An informational meeting took place Feb. 6 but no proposals were made.             Simons said he isn’t sure why the city sent the letter. He said Supervisor Herb Sessner asked at the Jan. 14 Committee of the Whole meeting that the town look into some shared services. Simons said he has informally discussed sharing serves with Nieuwenhuis in the past, but said the letter from the city was not a response to any specific request from the town to his knowledge.

Nieuwenhuis said the city initiated the discussion. He said he and Simons had casually discussed shared services before the letter was sent.

Nieuwenhuis said the city has recently reached out to the village and town of Darien to begin discussing the possibility of building and sharing a fire substation on the west side of Delavan. He said studies show there is a need.

Pieroni said the city has been interested in shared services for years. She said the Finance Committee recommended the city contact the town, and the letter to the town was a follow-up to that request.

A resident suggested the town not only look at services the city can provide but also services the town can provide the city. Simons said that is certainly a possibility and also said agreements could be made with any neighboring municipality, not just the City of Delavan.

Involving staff

A resident also suggested that relevant town staff be included in any future meetings to help avoid rumors or misinformation. Simons said misinformation has circulated suggesting the board planned to do away with the police or fire and rescue departments. He said that is not true, and if the Town Board discusses specific proposals, town staff will be invited.

Police Chief Phil Smith asked what town officials have discussed with the city with regard to the police department. Simons said the only discussion has been information the city shared about its agreement to share police services with the Village of Darien.

Simons said the board will listen to the residents as it looks at ways to provide services and maintain the town’s identity. Even if the board is interested in moving forward, it would be as long as a year to fully investigate and decide on the issue.

Simons said if town residents continue to show a lack of interest in sharing services for police and fire and rescue, the board will not pursue it.

“We have to listen to the citizens,” he said. “I pledged when I ran to listen, plan and protect.”

Simons said he would like to see the town explore a parks agreement. He said the town parks are underutilized, and more use of the parks would bring more business into the town because people would need gas or food. Even so, he said if town residents have no interest, the board will not pursue it.

“I was elected to listen to the people,” Simons said.

 
 

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