BARABOO, Wis. — The Baraboo District Ambulance Service Commission approved a five-year lease Wednesday between the service and the Baraboo Fire Department.
EMS Chief Caleb Johnson said the shift will allow BDAS to reduce utility costs and provide more space for emergency responders.
“We’re cramped, very tight for space in the Alma Waite building as it stands and in the administrative building, we’re obviously split from the operational staff by the road,” Johnson said. “The goal is just to really get under one roof.”
The lease requires no beginning date. The goal of the transition would be to first move administrative staff into the Baraboo Fire Department building, 135 Fourth St., but that is dependent on technology being set up by the Sauk County Management Information Systems Department, Johnson said.
Currently, he hopes they can move administrative staff into the former city hall building in about a month. The current administrative building, a former house at 121 Fifth St., sits across the street from the Alma Waite building, which is where EMS staff eat their meals and sleep during shifts.
A December meeting of the ambulance commission will likely include discussion of selling the administrative building, Johnson said.
Baraboo Fire Chief Kevin Stieve told members of the Baraboo Common Council during a meeting Tuesday that the lease will allow currently unused area in the fire department building to be used as the two agencies work more cohesively.
“This is the first step in working together better,” Stieve said. “We have a lot of empty space in that building that can be utilized by them and, I think by cohabitating with them if you will, will prove to be very, very beneficial not only to both services, but the citizens of this community and outside the city that we serve both jointly in our emergency services.”
The lease does not have a beginning date, but is set to end on the final day of 2025. It requires BDAS to pay no rent, but to split the cost of utilities evenly with the fire department by paying a bill produced by the city. The cost of routine maintenance will be shared between the two entities.
Council members approved the lease unanimously Tuesday.
Termination of the lease can be done by either agency through a written notice and would be effective 180 days later. The lease specifically notes that the city would be allowed to terminate it if it decides to no longer use BDAS as its ambulance service.
The city had been considering breaking its ties from the service after an audit revealed in January that the agency’s billing practices resulted in lost revenue because of a lack of follow through by staff. Initially, former EMS Chief Dana Sechler said the agency had more than $1.2 million in bills due to BDAS not being paid as the issue was revealed in July 2019.
Johnson said recently he did not feel the city of Baraboo leaving as a member of the service was a concern as BDAS works to correct its financial shortcomings. BDAS serves the city, the village of West Baraboo and the towns of Baraboo, Fairfield, Greenfield, Excelsior, Freedom and Sumpter.
Johnson echoed Stieve’s comments regarding the living situation, noting it would likely bolster a partnership between the emergency responders and allow for new programs and training events to be shared.
“It’s going to be a significant change, a positive change for our staff,” Johnson said. “And then also provide for some opportunity for some collaborative efforts between the fire department and EMS, and certainly strengthening the relationship between the two entities and exploring what joint efforts we can do in the future.”