Arena village board discusses financial future, EMS program

Emilie Conlon, Editor-in-Chief

The Village of Arena discussed its capital improvement plan and the on-going obstacle in funding its fire and EMS department at its Dec. 1  meeting. 

The board discussed the priority of needs for different projects in the village under the 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Plan. 

“This is just a starting point… you can change things around… This is fluid, just because you approve it tonight doesn’t mean it’s set in stone, it’s just to give you an idea of money being spent per year and where your priorities are at at this time,” said the village’s engineer, Kathy Jennings with MSA. 

Discussion ensued regarding prioritizing improving the village lift station or installing a second well for the village and if the DNR had been consulted enough regarding either project. 

Public Works Superintendent Michael Schmidt encouraged the board to approve the plan, and continue to revisit it as results from a water study come in, which could be helpful in determining priority for different projects. 

“The water study will be done for next month’s board meeting? I guess maybe that’s the better spot to start, we can conditionally approve this or even switch to the lift station first [before installing a second well] and then have a more honest discussion with the priorities at next month’s meeting once we have the water study, perhaps then we can have a more structured conversation with the DNR too,” said Schmidt. 

Village Board President Kate Reimann stated the village is in the same position as its last meeting regarding the on-going failure to fund the joint village and township fire and EMS programs. Following the failure of a referendum in the November election, the village cannot afford to pay the full 48% of funds it is responsible for the program. 

Reimann said the village has made large budget cuts in multiple areas, totalling  $67,000. 

Discussion then ensued between Trustee Kathy Stoltz and Arena Town Chair David Lucey regarding what Fire and EMS agreement the village and the township are currently operating under, with Stoltz contending the original agreement made is still valid. Lucey contended that the situation had evolved beyond the original agreement, with both parties agreeing their agreement needs to be updated. 

“I still believe there is an agreement in place and until such things are done to amend that agreement, it’s still in place, that’s my thoughts on it,” said Stoltz.

Trustee Tara Hill voiced concerns over the program itself, and the inability to recruit and retain members. 

“Financial aside, I have concerns regarding retention and all that based on some of the stuff I’ve shared previously… I had mentioned concerns regarding retention, the feedback I got is that, from previous EMT’s is the reason they won’t work for us, or come back, or we can’t retain them is because of current management [of the EMS department], that to me seems like a problem,” said Hill. “The feedback I got was it’s based on management… we’re not going to be able to keep the EMT’s anyway if there’s a management issue.” 

Lucey pushed back on that assertion, sharing his confidence in EMS Director Courtney Norton. A disagreement ensued between Hill and Lucey, with Hill sharing her experiences, while Pustina urged the discussion to stay on track. 

“Right now we need to sit down and figure this out,” said Pustina. “The door has been opened, as far as changing the [joint fire/ems agreement] agreement. The village board voted to change the agreement this year. That door has been opened, and I just don’t feel it’s right to close that door.” 

The board also accepted the resignation of Trustee Bill Hanson and approved $894 in attorney fees for a recently settled lawsuit that asserted the village was in violation of public records law. 

The board finished out the meeting by hearing from Police Chief Nicholas Stroik, who shared upon request from Stoltz that the village police department had been utilized in the township of Arena at least 13 times in the past month.  

Stroik also shared that the village received a Sauk Prairie Healthcare Foundation grant of $2500 for an AED FAST device. The device will be used to replace current AED’s in patrol vehicles. Current AED’s will be utilized elsewhere in village offices.

Stroik additionally shared that the village received a League of Wisconsin Municipalities grant awarded for Police Policies/Training towards a program called Lexipol that will assist in keeping the village ordinances and policies up-to-date with current state policy.