Wood County Sheriff’s Rescue is demobilized
By Rapids City Times staff
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – The Wood County Sheriff’s Rescue Department has been demobilized.
The action was sought by outgoing Wood County Sheriff Tom Reichert through a budget request, which was approved by the Wood County Public Safety Committee and approved in the overall 2019 county budget.
The Rescue Department is a group of over two dozen volunteers that provide 24-hour services for the Wood County Sheriff’s office. Members of the unit are certified first responders and EMTs who function through a paging service. They are trained in water and ice rescue, high and low level angle rescue, search and rescue, and crime scene isolation.
The move is one of several Reichert proposed for the 2019 budget, through which he planned to focus more on the jail and mental health programs.
“I’ve put a mental health program into the jail to help deal with, primarily, drug issues of heroin-addicted people that are in our jail; to deal with some of the mental health issues that they have coming off of that,” Reichert said in an interview with WDLB AM 1450.
“That program is going to cost about $150,000 and what my suggestion was to pay for that, or at least to begin paying for it, I suggested the elimination of…the Wood County Sheriff’s Rescue Squad.”
While Reichert said has a great appreciation for the volunteer group, he felt it was expendable for several reasons.
“They only serve a very limited number of townships in south Wood County,” he stated. “They don’t ever go to any calls north of Pittsville, in northern Wood County. This is strictly a south Wood County entity, so it is only serving a very small portion of our county.
“When the Rescue Squad was first created, I think in the 1960s it dates back to, the issue that I have found it was created for was to provide services that weren’t being provided for by other emergency service providers – mainly the volunteer fire departments throughout Wood County.
“The volunteer fire departments have now reached a point, particularly in the townships that are in questions as well as throughout our county, of having the equipment that is necessary to perform extrications of people from vehicles, any other type of services to separate cars forcibly. They have all of the equipment now to do those services for the Sheriff’s Department.”
Reichert said that the rescue unit now represents a duplication of services with the volunteer fire departments.
“Now it’s time to look at the financial numbers of it and move forward without them,” Reichert said.