Oregon Fire District Dispute Continues

A new chief could be just one of many changes for the Oregon Area Fire/EMS District.

Town of Madison Fire Chief David Bloom has been named interim chief of the department, which serves four areas: the Village of Oregon and its surrounding towns.

But he's stepping into hot water with the continuing district dispute surrounding a Village of Oregon proposal.

Village Administrator Michael Gracz says, "It's just time to make a change, there's nothing wrong with that."

The village proposal would dissolve the area's 5 member commission, giving the village the power to run the district.

"We feel that we're becoming almost 60% of the district's budget but only have two votes on a five member commission," says Gracz, "Which means we have been and continue to be outvoted on the big issues."

Right now, the district has 4 full-time captains and more than 60 volunteers. But the proposal could mean a staffing shakeup.

"Rather than jumping into hiring more full time people we'd like to do this management study and see if there's a better way to do it and encourage more volunteers," says Gracz.

"We can pull those numbers and stats together without doing a detailed study," says Chief Bloom, "But we're going to work on that in the next few weeks."

Chief Bloom is known for his pro-volunteer stance in his other chief position in the Town of Madison.

But relying more heavily on volunteers is alarming to some who work there.

Captain Tony Antoniewicz says, "Right now we only have 10 members who live and or work in village during the day so to staff the truck it's pretty tough."

He says it's getting harder for smaller areas to recruit volunteers.

"I think it's remarkably getting worse," says Antoniewicz, "We're seeing right now the average span of a volunteer here is about 2 years. After that their time becomes too important in other places."

"We need to make sure this is an environment where volunteers want to come back and volunteer for their community," says Bloom.

So far no decisions have been made. The Village of Oregon made the proposal last week.

Now village officials are waiting to hear back from the towns of Oregon, Rutland and Dunn, which should happen by the end of June.

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