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Mequon Fire Department Reorganization Moves Forward

MEQUON -- A reorganization of the Fire Department, which the chief says is top-heavy with supervisors and wasteful in spending, is set to go forward Monday after an informal blessing this week by city leaders.

Fire Chief David Bialk last week unveiled what he described as the first reorganization of the department in 38 years. Bialk, who was hired from Hales Corners about a year ago, said the 50-member department has one supervisor for every 1.8 firefighters and spends several times as much as other communities in responding to emergency calls because any of the paid-on call firefighters can respond to any emergency call.

On Tuesday, Bialk presented his plan to a meeting of the Common Council's Public Safety Committee, where firefighters upset with the plan got a chance to air their protests.

Given that Bialk believes he can make most of the changes under his own authority, the committee took no action, but city leaders expressed support for the plan, Ald. Dan Gannon said Wednesday.

"To me it sounds like just a focus on upgrading the group as a whole in terms of their training and capability and in terms of getting the job done," said Gannon, a member of the committee.

Figures provided by Bialk, some of which are disputed by firefighters, say an average of 16 Mequon firefighters and emergency medical technicians respond to each emergency call, whereas most non-full-time departments in the area average three.

To save money, a schedule for responding to emergencies will be implemented, Bialk said.

Although all firefighters and supervisors are paid the same hourly rate for responding to calls, Bialk plans to reduce the supervisor ratio to 1 for every 4 firefighters so that communication will be streamlined.

Jim Wienser, president of the Mequon Fire Department Organization, said he has asked the city to enter into bargaining to address at least some of the changes.

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