Sun Prairie officials, firefighters clash over full time operation

Contract with volunteers ends Jan. 1
Sun Prairie officials, firefighters clash over full time operation

Sun Prairie mayor John Murray met with town chairs and the volunteer fire department met Wednesday to discuss moving to full-time operation, despite a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that has not been secured.

The city cut off contract negotiations with the group a month ago. They recently announced plans to transition from volunteer staff to a full-time paid fire and emergency service integrated model.

Murray said the city has grown and needs to change fire department operations with or without the grant.

“I believe this city is committed to a transition to that integrated type of model whether we get the grant or not,” said Murray. “We’re a community of 30,000 people. We’re not the community of 4,000 people that we were 20 some years ago.” 

He added with a higher population, the service level and expectations of public safety have risen in Sun Prairie in recent years.

The contract between the city and volunteer firefighters comes to an end January 1, 2014. Current volunteer firefighters like Volunteer Chief Tory Strauss said they have a lot of concerns.

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Strauss said they are concerned about splitting up groups and the response from the city and townships when it comes to improving the quality of service.

“Our level of training is probably already above and beyond what will be required,” Strauss said. ‘I would say our firefighters here are trained to a higher standard than a lot of full-time departments just because there’s a lot more pride in it’s not just a job.”

But the town of Sun Prairie Chair, Lyle Updike said the lack of details puts outlying communities in a tight spot.

“We already have a contract and an equity interest with the Marshall-area EMS district. So we have a long term commitment for EMS services from another provider,” Updike said.

If Sun Prairie goes to an integrated model, townships would be able to buy into the service, but would have to purchase both EMS and fire services together.