Onalaska, La Crosse Fire Department continue negotiating terms o - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Onalaska, La Crosse Fire Department continue negotiating terms of Medary fire coverage

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Town of Medary (WXOW) - -

It has been two weeks since the La Crosse Fire Department assumed fire and first responder coverage of the Town of Medary.

The Onalaska Fire Department previously provided the coverage for the Town of Medary for more than two decades.

"Geographically, it poses problems for either department," said Chief Ken Gilliam with the La Crosse Fire Department. "There's certainly things in Medary that are closer to Onalaska. There's things in Medary that are closer to La Crosse Fire."

"Concern was raised as we looked at renewing our annual contract with them," said Eric Rindfleisch, Administrator of the City of Onalaska. "About providing a basic level of service to the entire town."

The impact of the switch goes beyond just the stickers on the fire truck. It raises questions about resources and mutual aid agreements.

"The key thing is to make sure that the City of Onalaska taxpayers are paying a good rate for their protection," Rindfleisch said. "That whatever we do outside of that boundary that's by contract doesn't harm the City of Onalaska residents."

"La Crosse Fire is going to grab the closest water supply available and put their fire out," Gilliam said. "We're encouraging our mutual aid neighbors to do the same. Hook to the hydrant. Get the fire put out. Let's take care of the emergency, and then, we can let the politicians decide who's paying the water bill."

Leaders from La Crosse, Onalaska, and Medary continue to meet at the table.

"We've just got a contract for 2018," Gilliam said. "It gives us a little bit of time to have La Crosse and Onalaska talk collaboratively on if there's a way to better split this up."

"There's a real opportunity here to cooperate and work in closer detail with each other to provide better coverage for everybody," Rindfleisch said.

Gilliam says he offered to file a joint bid for the Town of Medary coverage with other fire chiefs in the area. Although that did not happen, he says he is open to have discussions about merging local fire departments in the future for a more efficient response.

News 19 reached out to Town of Medary officials with no response.

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