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River Hills delays NSFD vote

Three trustees have excused absences

June 28, 2007

River Hills officials will wait one more month to vote on a proposed five-year freeze on the percentage of the levy that each member community would pay for the North Shore Fire Department.

Village President Robert Brunner suggested postponing the issue for a second time because only four of the board's seven members were at the June 19 board meeting.

The three absent board members - Stephen Anderson, Mary Ellen Pindyck and William Stevens - were all excused, Village Manager Thomas Tollaksen said.

Without them, Brunner said, the board should not vote on such an important issue. Other board members agreed and held the issue over until the board's next meeting.

Trustees tabled the freeze issue May 11 after several board members seemed poised to reject it.

A "no" vote from River Hills could squash efforts to change the fire department's financial arrangement, since all seven of the North Shore communities must agree to the change for it to take effect.

The other six communities in the North Shore Fire Department - Bayside, Brown Deer, Fox Point, Glendale, Shorewood and Whitefish Bay - have approved the resolution.

River Hills trustees are the last to consider the proposed freeze.

Trustee Richard Glaisner sharply criticized the proposed freeze in May, calling the plan "goofy" and political "blackmail." However, he waffled on whether to vote for the freeze, against it or send the issue back to negotiators.

At the June 19 meeting, Glaisner urged his fellow trustees to consider taking the matter into their own hands.

"We could come up with an alternative suggestion … get this thing done and do it sooner rather than later," he said.

Glaisner suggested a two-year freeze, although he said it was just a random number.

If the goal of the freeze, as some have said, is to give officials more time to find an equitable financing formula, then a shorter freeze might be better, Glaisner said, because it could spur movement.

Brunner was skeptical that the city of Glendale, which he sees as the sole beneficiary of the freeze, would likely deviate from the five-year proposal.

He also reiterated concerns that adopting the freeze would mean forever abandoning the current financial formula.

No fire department officials were at the recent meeting. However, in May, they insisted that, if the freeze didn't work and if no new arrangement was made, the communities could go back to the current formula after five years.

Under the current model, each community pays a percentage of the fire department's budget.

Under the freeze, the percentage of a community's support would remain steady for five years. But, depending on the department's budget, the actual money spent could vary for each municipality.

The freeze would be nullified if any community left the department; two years notice would be required before withdrawal.

Some village officials fear certain communities could be forced to pay a disproportionate amount for the level of service received.

Next Step

WHO: Village Board

WHAT: North Shore Fire Department five-year freeze on the percentage of

the levy that each community would pay

WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 18

WHERE: Village Hall, 7650 N.

Pheasant Lane

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