Marshfield Council to consider public safety referendum
BY MIKE WARREN
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield property owners may be asked to tax themselves to pay for additional fire and police personnel.
The Common Council voted Jan. 10 to direct city staff to present a referendum question for its consideration Jan. 24.
The proposed referendum would total $1.13 million, and would occur annually going forward. That amount would cover nine firefighters/paramedics plus turnout gear, one police officer plus equipment, one full-time police department records specialist and one administrative assistant position to be split between the fire and police departments.
“When we talk about three new firefighter/paramedics and we talk about a new police officer, these are replacing positions that are currently vacant,” City Administrator Steve Barg told the council. “So, in other words, when you talk about nine firefighter/paramedics, you’re not talking about nine people beyond where we were a year ago. You’d be talking about filling the three positions that we’ve been holding at bay for the past year or so, and then adding six more from that. It has to take care of what we are down at the present time. And the same is true with the police officer. Because of the recent budget cuts, we’ve been holding that position at bay. This would be to fill that position for proper staffing in P.D.”
Fire Chief Pete Fletty told aldermen the additional firefighter/paramedics would come at a time when call volumes at the Marshfield Fire & Rescue Department continue to climb. “If you look at our 9-1-1 call volume alone, that is on a steady increase, and it has been since 2000,” said Fletty. “If you look at call volume in general, I think it was 70 percent since the year 2000 our call volume has risen. We’ve risen 49.9 percent since 2007. So, it’s just been a steady increase in call volume, and that’s mainly due to 9-1-1 calls and ambulance calls.”
If approved by the Common Council, the public safety referendum would appear on the same ballot as a $99.5 million referendum put forth by the School District of Marshfield.
“We’re looking for a $1.1 million referendum for public safety. We’re not looking for a $100 million project to build a fancy addition to a building,” said Alderman Tom Witzel. “We’re looking for a $1.1 million dollar project to fund firefighters and EMT’s for a growing number of calls, not a fancy, new building for a declining enrollment,” Witzel added. “This is for public safety. This is for the neighbor who suddenly has a 9-1-1 call. This is for the elderly relative that we have who suddenly needs to have an ambulance. This is public safety. This not shiny, new stuff.”
The tax impact on a $100,000 home would be an additional $78.45 annually. On a $200,000 home, the public safety referendum would add another $156.90 each year. The actual mill rate impact would add an additional 78 cents to the current tax rate of $10.58.