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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Wausaukee Rescue Squad Changes Are Happening

Issue Date: September 30, 2021

Some of the changes mandated by officials of the four municipalities that provide financial support to Wausaukee Rescue Squad, Inc. at a contentious meeting on Monday, Sept.20 are getting underway.

Somehow, in a convoluted chain of events since fall of 2020 when squad "members" became basically paid full time employees, oversight of the squad had been steered away from the governing board made up of representatives of the Village of Wausaukee, towns of Wausaukee, Wagner and Amberg plus three persons elected by Squad members.

Squad officers dismissed at the Sept. 20 meeting include President Steve Van Den Berg and his wife, Jaymie Van Den Berg.

At the membership meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21, new officers /governing board members were elected. They are Tom Arthur, as acting president and Squad representative along with Kevin Kwasny and Jim Brien, and the four representatives for the municipalities - Pat Tracy, Village of Wausaukee; Mike Caylor, appointed to represent Wagner by Town Chair Steve Renikow Sr.; Jeff Englemann, Town of Wausaukee, and Mark Wisinski, Town of Amberg. Future meetings will be open to the public, Arthur said.

Arthur said it will be a huge job, "...but within two months, I'll have everything fixed and running like it should. I have a big task on my plate. But I have a lot of good people down there working with me to get things straightened out. It will be good. I just need two months!" He expressed confidence they can bring costs down to about what their budget was for last year, and definitely not as high as what the previous board had asked for.

He added, "Just with setting up our schedule correctly, I can save $20,000 to $30,000...We were profitable prior to this, and we can be again." He added that in his previous position as Squad treasurer, he was able to pay off their old Rescue Squad rig in three years. However, he said unless some changes are made now, the Squad will be $50,000 over budget by the end of 2021. He said he doesn't think money was being stolen, but does feel it was misused and expenses were not watched closely enough.

One place he plans to save is by cutting payroll, mainly by doing some careful scheduling and eliminating overtime.

One person not happy with Arthur's decisions is Katie Baar, who had been an employee of Wausaukee Rescue Squad as an EMT before she was fired by him.

Baar said she is 40 years old and studying with NWTC Green Bay to become a paramedic. She gave up a full time job in Coleman to take the Wausaukee Rescue Squad job because it works with her NWTC class schedule, and said she will have to give up her schooling if she loses this job, because there aren't any other fully paid squads in this area, and jobs that work around her school schedule are hard to come by.

Baar owned and operated a towing service in Coleman for 10 years before she was injured in a vehicle accident a few years ago that left her with an arm that she says can't raise over her head, but she said that does not interfere with her ability to perform on the squad. She is also a volunteer member of Coleman Rescue Squad since 2017- meaning that she gets paid only when responding to a call.

She said she couldn't hire people to run her towing service when she was injured, and subsequently lost that business.

Anyway - She was on duty Monday night, Sept. 20, "when everything changed at the squad." She and Tom Arthur were on the squad that responded that evening along with a firefighter to the lift assist call. She said on Tuesday night when she came to work Arthur met her at the door and said she was fired. She said Arthur then asked for her phone, went through it, gave it back, and then told her it was okay, she was not fired.

Arthur, and others who were present at the time, said he did not ask for the phone, Barr offered it to him.

On Tuesday evening, Sept. 21, squad members held their meeting. They talked about changes that were needed, and members voted to add the four town/village officials to the board, Baar said. Town and village officials were there and voted, and Arthur was elected squad president.

She said she was just there working her shift, and doesn't take part in the politics and in-fighting on the squad.

However, she said half way through her shift Wednesday night Arthur came with a sheriff deputy, who told her she was fired and escorted her out of the building. She said Arthur did not come in, and would not tell her why she was fired, except to say it was a "skills issue." She said Arthur would not tell her what she had done wrong, and said he wouldn't do an evaluation. She thinks Arthur may believe she is unduly influenced by Jaymie VanDenBerg, who was one of the assistant instructors at NWTC-GB when she was taking her EMT training there.

Arthur said in a follow-up interview that skills were among the issues, but there were also problems with scheduling, policies and procedures.

She said another employee was fired a few months ago, and they had done an evaluation on that person before she was let go.

She said in her studies she's getting 98% grades as a paramedic and to 95% as an EMT. She has held an EMT license since the summer of 2020, passed tests with one of the highest scores in her class, and made the National Registry on her first try. She said the paramedic certification she is studying for is two steps above the EMT work she was hired for at Wausaukee.

She said in addition to her NWTC class work she took part in a Green Bay Metro active shooter training event last year, and volunteered to help with state tests of 2021 EMT students.

Arthur said Baar wasn't following policies and procedures, and would not work with him on scheduling. "I told her, either you run these hours, or you don't. She wanted her own schedule, and that would have caused overtime." He added that the schedule Baar was willing to work left the Squad without a full crew for two hours a day, three days a week.

"I followed the books to a T," Arthur declared. "I had an officer come to observe the process. I told her she will get a letter. She can follow the by-laws and write a letter back to the squad, say she feels she has been wrongly terminated, and ask for a special meeting of the board to discuss her termination and state her case."

He said after Baar left that night, she went on a rant, phoned everybody and wrote to everybody on group chats.

Arthur repeated, "I made sure everything was done Kosher, and everyone was treated fairly. I had reasons, but I cannot go into detail. We could be $50,000 over budget at the end of the year, so I have to make a lot of changes to the schedule to get things to work. "Katie wouldn't work with the hours I offered to give her."

He said at the current pay scale wages cost $41 per hour, which comes to $6,100 a week or $358,000 total labor for the year, working with 3-person crews 24/7. They also have applications in the office from people who were - and hopefully are - willing to volunteer, Arthur said.

The Squad responds to 200 to 250 calls a year. He has found many places to cut costs, for example they were paying over $280 a week for phone and internet, and they can cut this a lot.




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