By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
HOWARD – At its Jan. 9 meeting, the Howard Village Board approved a referendum question to be included on the April 4 ballot requesting a levy increase of $765,000 for 2024 and for each fiscal year going forward.
The additional levy funding would support additional police, fire and rescue/ambulance services for the village — things Village Administrator Paul Evert said are much needed.
For police services, Howard contracts with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, which provides one around-the-clock patrol squad with a second patrol squad that is only staffed between 11 a.m. and 3 a.m., plus three direct enforcement officers (DEOs) that provide traffic enforcement and community outreach services during the day.
Currently, a DEO starts their shift at 5 a.m. to help handle the influx of morning calls.
Because of an increase in calls, especially for welfare checks, Evert said.
“Welfare checks are way up,” he said. “We have an aging population, like most places. I think that has a lot to do with it. And a lot of our calls, frankly, are going to our care facilities.”
Bringing the second patrol squad up to around-the-clock staffing, Evert said, would provide some flexibility for the DEOs and improve call response times.
The motion to include the referendum question on the April 4 ballot was approved unanimously.
Currently, the Village of Howard contracts with County Rescue for its ambulance services, but the contract will expire at the end of 2023.
Instead of renewing the contract with County Rescue, the Village of Howard plans to use the additional funding from the referendum to take over its own ambulance service in response to increasing response times from County Rescue.
In 2022, 19% of rescue calls took 10 minutes or more before an ambulance arrived on scene according to data from Brown County 911 Center.
Because of the delayed response times, Evert said the Howard Fire Department has been responding to EMS calls between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“If we had our own ambulance dedicated here, we probably would not have to send the fire truck out nearly as frequently,” he said. “Because we don’t know the nature of the call or know that we have a response covered.”
If the referendum passes in April, 2024 would bring the purchase of an ambulance and a total of seven full-time firefighter/paramedic positions that would staff the ambulance 24/7 for the village.
Even if the referendum does not pass, Evert said Howard would still likely be in the market for a new ambulance provider.
“We would have to look for a different EMS provider to contract with for 2024,” he said. “It’ll be a higher cost, but we’ll have to find a way to make it happen.”