La Crosse and Holmen fire officials disagree on idea of regional fire district

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -- - La Crosse's fire chief is raising the idea of a potential partnership with area fire departments. 

Chief Ken Gilliam said the proposal is intended to start a conversation about improving response times to emergencies in our community. 

"Is it at least an opportunity to at least sit down and say, 'what if?'" Gilliam said.  

He believes area communities could benefit from a partnership. 

"As you look at the corridor between La Crosse Onalaska and the Holmen Area Fire District. I think there's some overlap there where we share common borders," Gilliam said. "The trio of the cities in those areas that makes a lot of sense to look at."

He said the mutual aid system at times presents problems.  

"We have had one entity have a fire going, they're calling for mutual aid resources and they share a common boundary where we are actually closer," Gilliam said. "They have got other jurisdictions traveling through the city of La Crosse past staffed fire stations."

A problem he said is dangerous and illogical. 

"I think it's a public safety hazard to have fire stations crisscross when La Crosse is not involved," Gilliam said.  

While Holmen fire officials are open to the idea, Holmen Fire Department President Steve Johnston said there are still plenty of questions to be answered. 

"When another municipality is offering you safety and security, as a representative the question you need to be asking is how much," Johnston said. 

It's a question he said has no answer on the horizon.

"In this instance there's just way too many unknowns," Johnston said. 

Village of Holmen Administrator Scott Heinig said a lot would have to happen for this to become a reality. 

"I'm not sure it's realistic unless there's some unified district body where every player has equal voice and equal say and revenues are equally distributed," Heinig said. 

Gilliam is hopeful there will at least be discussion moving forward. 

"We really should be focusing on public safety response and efficient response and cost effectiveness to the larger area," Gilliam said. 

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