MARINETTE — A memorandum allowing the Marinette Fire Department to provide emergency medical services (EMS) to the entire City of Marinette was approved by the City Council on Tuesday after some spirited debate about the issue not being properly routed through the city’s committee levels. 

Mayor Steve Genisot and Fire Chief Jay Heckel introduced the memorandum to the City Council on Tuesday, after several discussions over the last year with Bay Area Medical Center (BAMC) and the Emergency Rescue Squad Inc. regarding the possibility of the fire department extending its EMS response area to include the entirety of the City of Marinette. Previously, the Marinette Fire Department was restricted from responding to medical emergencies unless the emergency was within a one-mile radius of the fire station on Main Street, or unless their assistance was specifically requested. 

The new memorandum states that “the Marinette Fire Department will provide city wide coverage at the Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) level for the following calls for emergency medical services: Chest pain, heart attack or stroke; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; unresponsive person; man down for an unknown reason or falls resulting in trauma; overdose; anaphylaxis or allergic reactions; choking; gunshot wounds or stabbing; all motor vehicle accidents with injuries; all calls to Fincantieri Marinette Marine; and any other EMS calls as requested.” The fire department is required to turn over patient care to the next highest or highest level of care once they arrive on the scene, and the responding EMS agencies can cancel the fire department’s response if they do not require assistance. The year-long memorandum is set to renew automatically. 

Genisot gave his approval of the memorandum, calling it a common sense change to the fire department’s response rules. 

“If I’m a taxpayer and I’m having a life-threatening emergency, why would we want any kind of artificial boundary if, in fact, the fire department is the first and most appropriate to respond?” he asked the council. 

Heckel also addressed the council on Tuesday, and stated that the fire department had “no intention of taking over ambulance service” within the city. 

“We can’t replace the other agencies that are involved,” he said. “We just feel that we can augment the services provided that the taxpayers as a whole are paying for.” 

Ward 3 Alderman John Marx asked if the topic had been discussed by the Public Safety & Code Enforcement Committee. Genisot said it had not, as the memorandum was not a formal contract or financial agreement. Marx replied that he felt it should have been discussed at committee level, as he would have liked to see more details, such as a cost analysis and statistics regarding EMS calls outside the fire department’s one-mile response radius, and made a motion to send the issue to the Public Safety & Code Enforcement Committee. The motion was seconded by Ward 5 Alderman Wally Hitt. 

Alderperson-at-large Dorothy Kowalski said she would rather not send the issue to committee level. 

“I understand what John (Marx) is saying, and I believe that things should go through committee,” she said. “However, this is important enough that I don’t want to waste any time sending it back to committee, because of the topic.” 

Ward 4 Alderman Brian Walters said he would support immediately approving the memorandum rather than sending the topic to committee level, but said he did not want to make a habit of bringing topics directly to the council. 

“For me, in the future, there needs to be a lot more forward thinking rather than coming to council meetings with our hair on fire, like, ‘we’ve got to approve this now,’” he said. 

The motion to send the memorandum to the committee level failed by a vote of three in favor to six against, with Marx, Hitt and Ward 8 Alderman Jason Flatt in favor and Ward 1 Alderman Ken Keller, Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Skorik, Ward 6 Alderman Peter Noppenberg, Ward 7 Alderman Rick Polzin, Walters and Kowalski against. After the failed vote, Kowalski made a motion to approve the memorandum, which Noppenberg seconded. 

Skorik gave his perspective on the matter as the chairman of the Public Safety & Code Enforcement Committee, and said he had seen the EMS qualifications for the firefighters increase over the years, and he felt the firefighters were more than capable of providing EMS until other medical response teams arrived. 

“I’m going to vote tonight just based on my knowledge of the fire department’s ability to respond,” he said, and added that he would be happy to review the topic at committee level if that was how the council felt. 

Marx clarified that he approved of the memorandum, but felt he could not in good conscience vote on the matter without it having gone through the committee level. 

The City Council approved the memorandum with a vote of eight in favor to one against, with Marx as the sole opposing council member. Genisot said he would forward the memorandum to the Public Safety & Code Enforcement Committee for informational review as well.