Ken Gilliam

Ken Gilliam, La Crosse Fire Chief

A proposed agreement with the La Crosse Fire Department to do maintenance work on Holmen Area Fire Department vehicles and equipment will be brought before the boards of the three municipalities represented on the Holmen Area Fire District Association Board for approval.

The towns of Holland and Onalaska and the village of Holmen have two representatives each sitting on the fire board. The LCFD Fire Chief Ken Gilliam presented the proposal at HAFDAB’s Feb. 21 meeting.

HAFD Fire Chief Paul Menches has been advocating for the agreement with the LCFD, advising the agreement would make the maintaining the department’s fleet and equipment less costly and with a quicker turn-around in repair time.

“I’d like to give this initiative a shot,” said Menches. “I just think it makes good sense and we should try it out for a year.”

The Holmen firefighters aren’t trained to do the mechanical work on the department’s response vehicles, and the trucks are being sent out for repair to ensure they meet Department of Transportation standards.

In the agreement draft, Gilliam listed cost estimates for parts and labor that his department would charge for servicing Holmen’s equipment.

“I’m doing this as a colleague to Chief Menches,” said Gilliam. “We can provide some services at a more cost effective rate for you. We’ve got a little more depth to the bench than you have in regards to qualified maintenance personnel individuals.”

LCFD has a full-time maintenance officer and three firefighters dual-staffed as assistant mechanics on shift trained to service special equipment such as extrication equipment and fire apparatus.

Menches advised the fire board members the department currently has an engine needing valve replacement and possibly a replacement of a digital water tank gauge.

“The LCFD can do it quicker and cheaper,” said Menches.

HAFDAB member and Holmen Village Board Trustee Steve Johnston agreed the agreement looked promising but was still a bit gun-shy about contracting with the city of La Crosse.

“In here (the agreement), there’s a lot of common sense stuff,” said Johnston, “but, we’ve had some surprises in the past when La Crosse has tried to pass on costs to neighbors.”

Some of Johnston’s caution stems from an agreement Holmen had been working on with the city to send the village’s sewage to La Crosse’s waste treatment plant. In December 2015, the city informed the village it was imposing a hook-up fee for the service, a provision that had not been discussed during the years of negotiations between the two municipalities.

Upon being informed of the new cost, the village ended its discussions with La Crosse and opted to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant instead of continuing with the regionalization plan.

“If it becomes a bad deal, we’ll shake hands and part ways,” said Chief Gilliam.

Johnston recommended the fire chiefs’ proposal be presented to the respective towns and village boards for review and to bring the respective boards’ recommendation to the next HAFDAB meeting for action.

“I’m not talking about kicking the can down the road,” said Johnston. “We should be able to bring it back to the next (HAFDAB) meeting.”

The HAFDAB took no action, but there were no objections voiced to Johnston’s suggestion.

The board did act on a proposal to further discuss a web-based training opportunity with the LCFD. The Target Solutions program allows firefighters to log on to the program at their convenience to receive training.

Menches advised the fire board the department is putting more emphasis on training with other fire departments.


Coulee Courier and Houston County News editor

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