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Withdrawal still an option as Glendale awaits formula votes

Dec. 11, 2013

Glendale — Mayor Jerome Tepper and the Common Council are holding off their talks of leaving the North Shore Fire Department until after the other NSFD communities vote on a proposed funding arrangement.

The council on Monday unanimously approved the new funding formula, which to date has also been approved in Whitefish Bay, Brown Deer and Fox Point. Bayside is scheduled to vote on the proposal in December while River Hills is set to vote on it in January. Shorewood may take up the proposal in December or January.

The proposed funding formula is the product of 10 months of work among the NSFD board of directors, city and village administrators and Public Policy Forum. Negotiations were tense in October and November after River Hills Village President Bob Brunner threatened to veto the proposal, prompting Tepper to threaten Glendale's withdrawal from the department at the city's first opportunity, in 2016.

After a number of meetings at the NSFD and River Hills Village Board, Brunner eventually backed down and voted for the proposal at the NSFD board's Nov. 25 meeting. The proposal is now making the rounds through the NSFD member communities, which all have to approve it for the new funding formula to take effect in 2016 as planned.

The Glendale council was scheduled Monday to consider submitting their official withdrawal from the department, effective 2016, as a precaution in case any of the other communities vote down the proposal.

When the council agenda was made, officials were under the impression that the withdrawal notice requires a two-calendar-year lead time, meaning that if Glendale failed to submit the notice by January the city could withdraw in 2017 at the earliest. However, NSFD legal counsel Bill Dineen informed them in the meantime that the two-year requirement is not based on calendar years.

"(For example) if we gave notice in March 2014, it would go into effect in March 2016," Tepper explained. "We would be on the hook for three months and then be done."

Despite the slim chance that one of the other NSFD communities will vote down the proposal, the withdrawal option remains important to Glendale because the original mid-1990s formula would go into effect in 2016 if a new formula is not agreed upon by then. That formula would create a dramatic increase in Glendale's share of NSFD costs, and nearly caused the city to leave the department in 2007.

Absent the urgency of the two-calendar-year requirement, the Glendale council decided to hold over the withdrawal topic until its second meeting in January, at which point all the NSFD member communities will have voted on the proposal.

"The risk is minimal," Tepper said, "and there is no reason to give notice now because that would open up a whole can of worms."

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