Town Board Unloads On EMS Director

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MTT News Desk's picture
Kevin Murphy

Members of the Middleton Town Board called City of Middleton EMS Director Steven Wunsch on the carpet Monday for an alleged lack of communication.

“The meeting tonight is about you. The staff is among the finest in the country but there’s a level of arrogance from you is how I see it,” said board supervisor Tim Roehl.

Town chairman Milo Breunig recalled being “shocked” when he said without notice the city doubled the town’s EMS bill by $90,000 in 2009 when a new ambulance and crew were added.

Roehl called it “unacceptable.”

“Please accept my sincere apology…I’m pledging to you to better communicate with you,” Wunsch said.

The town board began considering ending its decades-long relationship with the Middleton EMS when Ryan Bros. Ambulance Service recently opened a facility in Middleton. 

The board heard from Patrick Ryan last month and Wunsch, who’s been EMS director since 1994, appeared before the board Monday for the first time.

Board supervisor Bill Kolar was a member of the EMS Commission for two years but it only met once during that time. He joined other board members calling for the town to be a bigger player in EMS decisions.

“If we stay [a contracted party with Middleton EMS] things will change,” Kolar stated. “We won’t get one letter a year from you. We need to work out a new agreement. We have to get more feedback from you.”

After listening to Wunsch’s 40-minute presentation plus requests from residents for the board to continue contracting for city EMS service, Breunig said he learned more than he had in 14 years on the board.

Breunig criticized Wunsch for not including the town in its planning and budgeting process.

“The town’s not part of the discussions; … I want more communication, I want to know what you’re doing,” he said.

Responding to an open records request from the Middleton Times-Tribune after the meeting, Wunsch provided an email he sent to the town in 2012 asking to meet with town leaders in order to share information.

The email, dated November 28 and sent to town administrator David Shaw, included the following offer from Wunsch: “I would like to offer my willingness to attend any of your Town Board meetings in order to answer questions, provide information, and give updates any time they might desire,” he wrote. “The EMS Commission does not meet that often and this could be a way to keep the Town Board informed and in the loop about the services we provide.  Let me know if that is something they might want to entertain."

Wunsch said he received no response.

Under a formula that’s been in place since 1979, the town pays 25 percent of the EMS’ city-approved budget, minus the fees it receives for service. The town’s share is based on its population relative to the City of Middleton and Town of Springfield, the other municipalities served by the EMS.

The city EMS has a $1.493 million budget this year, of which 60 percent was funded by user fees, with the remainder paid by the City of Middleton ($547,016), Town of Middleton ($181,799) and Town of Springfield ($14,304), said Wunsch.

Last year the town generated 132 of the 1,600 service calls the city EMS responded to, which included 253 calls outside of the three municipalities.

“We’re less than 10 percent of the calls but 25 percent of the cost. That formula needs looking at,” said Tom Voss, town attorney.

Wunsch agreed the 34-year-old contract needed to be reviewed and said he would help make the town a bigger part of the budgeting process, including giving the town the proposed budget he will give to city administration next month.

After the meeting Wunsch said he felt he could patch up his differences with the town board.

“The services we deliver are not in question here,” he said. “I think the suggestions for improving communication are well warranted and we can easily work on that and achieve that goal. Beyond that, town residents get peak value for the services we provide and we have patient outcomes to show we’re doing a superior job. If that’s the focus, we’re the logical choice to continue to providing that service.”

Whether the City of Middleton will make the town a bigger player in the process is ultimately up to the city’s common council, Wunsch said.

“You can’t discount [the town] wanting to have a stake in the game,” he commented. “They have to answer to their citizens and they need to have good information so they can properly plan. I don’t believe there will be final authority given to the town over the city’s processes but the town can certainly be a part of it. How that works out has yet to be determined.”



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