Wausaukee Rescue Squad Has Annual Meeting Feb. 12
Things appear to be going well for Wausaukee Rescue Squad. At the group's annual meeting on Sunday, Feb. 12, Tom Arthur was reelected as president, Kevin Kwasny was returned to office as vice president, and Jim Brien is again a board member, all by unanimous vote and without opposition.
Brien was then elected treasurer, replacing Matt Dertz, who had taken over the position last year after the former treasurer resigned. In voting by written ballot, there were five votes for Brien, three for Dertz and one for Kwasny, who had not been nominated for that office. Since officers are also members of the board, his election as treasurer left the board short a member.
Penny Howard remains a board member and was not up for reelection, so she, Brien, Kwasny and Arthur currently make up the board. Rules require at least three members.
There was brief discussion on whether or not they should then elect an additional director, but Arthur said since they still had enough board members satisfy squad rules they should wait. They are considering a rule change that would give a representative of each of the four municipalities they serve voting rights on the board, and that would give an eight member board. The municipalities include Town and Village of Wausaukee, Town of Amberg and Town of Wagner. Arthur noted the town and village representatives would need to follow Squad rules and attend at least six meetings a year to retain voting rights on the board.
Things in general appear to be going well for the squad, except that they are greatly in need of some new active members to respond to squad calls. They need drivers, EMTs and First Responders, Arthur said. He urged anyone interested to call their non-emergency number, 715-856-5035.
On the good news side, the profit and loss statement shows that the squad made a net "profit" of $11,226.58 in 2016 after covering expenses. Total income was $211,417, of which $15,360 came from donations, $3,604 from fund raising, $3,410 from funding assistance programs, $1,000 from the squad raffle, $46,874 from the municipalities served, and $140,903 from squad runs. "Tammy says everything looks good and we're going in the right direction," Arthur said of the financial report prepared by their accountant.
A year ago controversy swirled around the Squad. There were allegations that funds had been misused, followed by multiple resignations. At the organization's annual meeting in 2016 changes were made in office management, accounting firm, and the governing board. Promises were made that town officials would have some sort of involvement in overseeing the squad, which operates as a private not-for-profit corporation.
Intentions of naming representatives of the four municipalities to the squad's governing board appears to be aimed at keeping that promise.
At Sunday night's sparsely attended annual meeting squad members present approved a number of by-law and operating procedure changes aimed at preventing recurrence of some of the problems encountered last year.
"We worked hard to put this together," Arthur said of the proposed by-laws, adding that some of them were pretty outdated.
First change involves the procedure for accepting new members. To start there is to be appropriate screening, background check, references, etc. Then, if voted in by members, there will be a six month probationary period, after which a performance review will result in either another six months probation, release, or approval.
There also was an addition to the time sheet information section that always was the practice but never was formalized in the by-laws.
Squad members are prohibited from consuming alcohol while wearing squad apparel or within eight hours of a scheduled shift or a schedule vacancy. Approval of that rule was preceded by questtions regarding purchase of alcohol, and it was decided it is okay to buy beverages to take home at the end of a shift as long as members do not consume it until they are at home and out of uniform. Members cannot stop anywhere for a drink while on the way home from their shift or a run if they are wearing squad apparel.
There is now a conflict of interest rule which states that no member can hold a paid position on the squad if a family member is an elected official of the organization.
Leaves of absence can be granted in three month increments for up to a year. While on leave a squad member can't vote, and when they return to active membership they must be back for six months before they can vote or become an officer. Arthur commented they are trying to avoid the sort of protest in which members go on leave in a group, and then come back just in time to vote. In response to questions, he felt, and others agreed, that perhaps the board could grant exceptions for members who go on leave for documented medical reasons. All equipment and gear must be turned in within seven days of going on lave, and when the meme is ready to come back they must notify the president or secretary in writing.
Approval of the revised by-laws, which were presented to squad members in printed form, was unanimous. Arthur thanked Kwasny and others on the By-Law Committee for all their hard work.
Fair Board President Dave Gross had told Brien there is a chance the squad could get a $500 donation to provide emergency services at the County Fair. Arthur felt with the current member shortage it would be really hard to staff the First Aid booth all four days of the Fair, and wondered if they could share duties with other rescue squads or open it to the Area Wide EMS Association. No decision was made.
Another question discussed but not decided was whether or not to again have their food stand on the fair. They reportedly made less than $1,000 on it last year.
Howard noted roasting corn is pretty much steady work. She also said the Squad usually gives Jandt Farms first aid kits in return for the corn they donate, and the kits they were supposed to get this year are still in the Squad building.
Discussion included drafting family members or other volunteers to help out, including high school students who are obligated to do a specific number of volunteer hours each year.
It was reported that Mike Orlando and Dr. Mason have been working on the squad's operational plan, and are now waiting for approval fro the state.
Brien reported the state had a committee looking at ways to correct a statewide shortage of EMTS and other volunteers, and there are five bills proposed to go through the legislative process to help correct the problem. Brien said he had recently been at the Wisconsin Towns Association District meeting and State Rep. Jeff Mursau had agreed o help them get some of the bills approved. Chasing expressed hope they all would be adopted. One of the new rules would allow EMTS to get added training that would allow them to give IVs. There also are some proposed changes in the length of service incentives for long-term members. Due to shortage of funds, Wausaukee has never been starting it now would be an incentive for new members to join and stay. Brien noted the Town of Peshtigo had adopted it for their fire department.
There is also a proposal for a tax refund or credit of up to $1,000 for attending meetings or going on squad runs.
Brien promised to keep the board informed as the bills progress through the legislative process. He said Mursau and State Sen. Tom Tiffany will probably attend the Marinette County Towns Association meeting in April. There also will be public hearings as the bills progress.
Arthur reported he is nearly certain the 4-wheeler is sold to the Wagner Fire Department for $2,500. He is Fire Chief for Wagner. The squad is looking at a Kubota machine with a big trailer for long boards.
"I know this was kind of a painful year," Arthur told everyone present. He thanked all members for getting through it, as well as for all their hard work and the time they spend away from their families, and repeated his request for new members to join the squad.
Recent stories, opinions and photos