Referendum will likely decide future of village

By Gail Peckler-Dziki                 


Two separate referenda concerning Silver Lake will be on the ballot Tuesday – both dealing with the future of the village.

Two questions will be asked: “Should the Silver Lake Village Board be prohibited from entering into any agreement with the Town of Salem, Wisconsin, for any sharing of fire department or rescue services, other than the usual MABAS agreement?” and “Should the Village of Silver Lake, Kenosha County, Wisconsin dissolve?”

An emergency services ad hoc committee charged by then-Silver Lake Village President Jeff Albrecht in 2012 came up with several methods to ease the Silver Lake Fire Department’s budget woes. The committee recommendations were advisory only.

A major concern at the time was that the fire department was unsustainable in the present format without massive tax hikes and the committee suggested that a successful model was a joint department that would involve the fire department but not the private rescue squad.

Several Silver Lake residents circulated the petition under the direct legislation provision in state law that stated the Village Board should not enter into any agreement with the Town of Salem. When the Village Board, with Sue Gerber as president, failed to agree to that, it automatically became a referendum issue.

There was a question about the validity of using the direct legislation law, since the question was about a contract. Village Attorney Linda Gray gave the board the go-ahead.

The second referendum seemed to come in response to the first. While about 200 residents signed the first petition, more than 400 signed the second.

If the first question is answered yes by a majority then the only cooperative fire and emergency services that the village would have with Salem would be the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, or MABAS service. MABAS is a mutual aid measure used for deploying fire, rescue and emergency medical services personnel in a multi-jurisdictional and/or multi-agency response.

What this question leaves out is the Automatic Response Agreement, which is slightly different from MABAS.

Automatic response occurs immediately and equipment sent through automatic aid must offset a need. For example, if a ladder truck is needed at a fire and the department doesn’t have one, one can be sent by a neighboring community. Mutual department training as half-day drills are part of this agreement and must occur regularly throughout the year.

Mutual aid occurs after the responding fire department arrives on scene, assesses the emergency, determines what is needed and then calls for it. Generally, mutual aid programs are utilized for water supply only.

On the second question, if two-thirds of those who vote on Nov. 4 agree to dissolve, within six months, the Village of Silver Lake will become part of the Town of Salem.

The state statute (66.0235(13)(bb)) regarding the change reads, “If territory which has been annexed, consolidated, detached or incorporated returns to its former status by reason of a final court determination, there shall be an apportionment of general property taxes and current aids and shared revenues between the local governmental units, and no other apportionment of assets and liabilities. The basis of the apportionment shall be determined by the apportionment board subject to appeal to the circuit court. The apportionment shall to the extent practicable equitably adjust the taxes, aids and revenues between the local governmental units involved on the basis of the portion of the calendar year the territory was located in the respective local governmental units.”