On January 1st, 2008 the Town of Cedar Lake joined with five other Towns (Birchwood, Wilson, Edgewater, Long Lake, and Doyle) and the Village of Birchwood to form the BFCESD. The BFCESD provides fire protection for all of the municipalities and ambulance service for all but Doyle and one half of both Long Lake and Cedar Lake.
The BFCESD is a newly created government entity whose sole purpose is to provide emergency services for its members. The Birchwood Volunteer Fire Department and Birchwood Ambulance Service both report to the District. Each Town and the Village have a commissioner and the seven commissioners form the Board for the District.
Previously the six Towns had contracted with the Village of Birchwood for their fire and ambulance services and the Village of Birchwood Board made all decisions regarding fire and ambulance service. for many years the Village had an advisory group made up of all the contracted Towns who gave opinions on budget and coverage issues, but did not have any authority. The Village Board frequently found itself in a difficult position, elected to serve the Village, but voting on emergency services that affected not only the Village but six other Towns. In 2007 the advisory group began having discussions about forming an emergency services district that would be singularly focused on public safety. Art Johnson, a Village Board member, had previously been involved in a fire district and was able to give some helpful insight into the benefits of forming a District. After several months of discussions and help from each of the Towns and the Village, incorporation papers (view here) were developed and resolutions passed by each of the member entities endorsing the BFCESD.
While services should remain the same and the Birchwood Fire Department and the Birchwood Ambulance Service have not changed, there are several potential benefits to the formation of the BFCESD.
- First, when decisions need to be made about emergency services, they are made at the monthly BFCESD meetings and they are the only thing on the agenda. Each Town and the Village have one vote and the only issues that are dealt with are those of public safety as handled by the BFCESD.
- The second benefit is the potential to qualify for more grant money as a District that includes six Towns and one Village from four different counties.
In today’s environment, intergovernmental cooperation is encouraged and favored by many of the groups looking at grant requests. In addition, our composition may qualify for more types of grants including those given for the purchase of land and buildings. Each of the member entities are in the far corner of their respective County and quite a distance from County evacuation centers. We will be pursuing the building of a new Fire/AmbuIance building that would include facilities for an evacuation center providing we can get most of the funding for it through grants.