Daily Bread for 12.28.21: Fire & Rescue

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will see snow or freezing rain with a high of 35.  Sunrise is 7:24 AM and sunset 4:28 PM for 9h 03m 56s of daytime.  The moon is a waning crescent with 34.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1967, American businesswoman Muriel Siebert becomes the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

 Alexa Jurado reports Rising 9-1-1 call loads, recruitment struggles put Wisconsin fire and EMS agencies on shaky ground, new report says:

A growing call load coupled with lagging recruitment could be a recipe for disaster for Wisconsin fire and emergency medical service agencies, according to a study conducted by the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

“Unless they are appropriately addressed, fire and EMS financial and staffing challenges may soon have a real impact on public safety,” the report says.

Grafton fire chief William Rice said Ozaukee County is no stranger to these issues. Both locally and nationally, fire departments have seen a growing need for ambulances for years, Rice said. But unlike larger, more urban communities like the City of Milwaukee, most don’t have the staff or funding to meet these demands.

“Things are changing in our communities,” Rice said.

More people are calling 9-1-1 for things they might’ve driven themselves to the hospital for — when other healthcare providers are overwhelmed, people are directed to the emergency room, Rice said. Assisted living facilities frequently call when elderly residents fall.

Much of the data reported by the Wisconsin Policy Forum was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has gotten much worse,” Rice said. “This last year has been hugely challenging.”

On top of an aging population, COVID-19 is a significant factor. Every day the Grafton Village Fire Department is going on one, sometimes multiple, COVID-related calls, Rice said.

Rob Henken, president of the Wisconsin Policy Forum, said his group has observed a greater reliance on Wisconsin’s mutual aid systems.

When a community can’t fully staff an ambulance, it might call on a nearby town, which can overload the neighboring communities and slow response times.

“In the case of emergency medical services, this could be the difference between life and death,” Henken said.

And Wisconsin keeps a lid on municipal spending.

If a department blows past expenditure limits it will lose additional state funding, explained Ken Gilliam, fire chief of the LaCrosse Fire Department.

Whitewater is not mentioned in the Journal Sentinel story or the Wisconsin Policy Forum study, but she, like other cities, will need new revenue to maintain fire and rescue, and sooner than many residents realize.

There are three implications of this need:

First, as state or federal funds won’t be available, the city will have to fund emergency services through local revenue.  Like other nearby citites, a funding referendum will be policymakers’ obvious choice.

Second, a funding referendum in the next eighteen months would occur around the same time when the school district likely seeks an operational referendum, and the city will vote again by council on library expansion.

No matter how worthy all these projects seem to their respective supporters, they will face a climate of spending fatigue. The last request submitted for final approval will have the hardest time.

As it is, for more than one reason, an operational referendum for the district is, at best, a fifty-fifty proposition.  Too much has been misallocated already, the defense of that misallocation has been dodgy, and the administration’s approach to community relations amounts to platitudes stacked on platitudes. If there’s ever been an administration that has given hostage after hostage to fortune, it’s this one.

(If it will be hard for the adminstration to pass an operational referendum in this district, it will prove harder still to manage the fallout from a failed referendum without disappointment and recriminations. Whitewater is a beautiful city, but she is not an easy one. There are ways to avoid a dismal outcome, but no reason to think this district’s administration grasps any of them.)

Third, by contrast, so long as the request isn’t exorbitant and is explained candidly, most communities are likely to support fire and rescue. (Life-saving is, after all, popular with the living.)

Always and forever: a community is bigger than its elected or appointed officials. The important concern in any of these decisions is the well-being of residents, especially those now disadvantaged or otherwise vulnerable.

Why Wild Ginseng Is So Expensive:

Ginseng has been used for thousands of years as an herbal medicine to boost energy and enhance focus. But not all ginseng is created equally, and there is a huge price difference between wild ginseng and cultivated ginseng. So what’s the difference, and why are some roots 10 times the price of others?

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