The Madison Fire Department will have to wait until at least next year to receive funding to operate a ninth ambulance, but it may not have to wait too much longer to get the ambulance itself.
During their budget meeting Tuesday, the Madison City Council rejected three amendments that would have added ten firefighters to staff the ninth ambulance; but, during last night’s meeting, the city council approved an amendment to approve over $300,000 in borrowing to acquire a new vehicle.
Alder Lindsay Lemmer said she introduced the amendment after painful considerations at the first night of budget meetings.
“We know that this is a need that has been there for a long time. We know that folks who live in the territory of Station 14 [where the ninth ambulance would have been stationed], who are subject to getting an ambulance within nine minutes only 53 percent of the time versus 90 percent of the time everywhere else, that’s shameful,” Lemmer said. “But, we have a lot of competing priorities. What we were faced with yesterday was an untenable decision for most of us.”
But Lemmer says her amendment is a move in the “right direction.”
“In addition to requesting this ambulance, I’m also requesting something that cannot be put in the budget,” Lemmer added. “I’m requesting that my council colleagues and the Mayor’s office work to make sure we have a staffed ambulance in the 2021 budget.”
When Alder Sheri Carter asked Fire Chief Davis about whether getting another ambulance would be enough for 2020, Davis was clear.
“Yeah, we’ll take the ambulance,” he said, inspiring a smattering of laughter.
Davis said the Department tries to keep a two-to-one ratio of ambulances in use and ambulances in reserve. As the department’s ambulances reach their shelf life, they are phased out of daily use and instead are used during special events, such as Badgers games at Camp Randall.
The City’s 2019 budget set aside funding for two ambulances that the Department will acquire next June. The ambulance approved last night will be in the Department’s possession by January 1st, 2021.
Over the past two nights, the City Council also approved the creation of an independent police auditor position that will cost $200,000. The auditor was recommended by a city committee and by an independent consultant group that released a report on the Madison Police Department in late 2017. That review was prompted by the fatal shooting of Tony Robinson by a Madison police officer four years ago.
Alder Paul Skidmore has opposed the position’s inclusion in this year’s budget. He clarified his stance during last night’s meeting.
“The intent was not to derail or disband or kill the committee or the auditor, it’s just to work out the details,” Skidmore said. “I still have concerns about the details, but the more I’m hearing from the City attorney is that we will have a chance to review and vet and make sure that this is an unbiased process that will have wide input, and it will have a lot of people having input into it.”
Skidmore also said that he hoped to use the money allocated for the police auditor to instead create additional police officer positions.
The city also added three new police officer positions — seven officers short of what the Madison Police Department asked for in the budget.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway indicated at last night’s meeting that she is poised to sign both the 2020 capital, and operating, budgets.