At first glance, fire mergers seem like a good arrangement for agencies that wish to increase efficiency and control costs.In many cases, fire consolidations accomplish that very aim.The past half-dozen years have not been kind to local government agencies in California.
The students only considered consolidation as an alternative to the current arrangement of services.
"The expanded EMS services, property insurance savings, and benefits associated with joint purchasing of apparatus and maintenance services provide substantial benefits to the community relative to the costs," the students wrote.
The chiefs are looking at consolidating the stations into one district to serve the rapidly growing region just south of the city of Madison.
La Follette School students share their findings about consolidating fire and emergency services.
"That is why we needed La Follette students to provide us with an analytical road map through a detailed cost-benefit analysis to see if merging our three different departments made sense." The students were Katie Biddick, Jimmy Galindo, Andrew Kleps, Bryan Mette, Phil Sletten and Angela Waltz.
"About a third or half of the people listening were firefighters, paramedics and their respective officers," Galindo says.
Given the interest surrounding these consolidation arrangements, I sat down with the state’s foremost fire merger expert, Chief Stewart Gary.
Chief Gary is the Fire Services Principal for Citygate Associates, a professional consultancy based in Folsom that provides a wide range of services to local governments.
Why then, aren’t more agencies enacting these cost saving measures?
As Chief Gary puts it, “If this process was easy, there would be 200 fewer fire departments in the state.” Mergers must deal with employment laws established over the past hundred years that regulate everything from wages to working hours, pensions and medical benefits, and safe operating rules.
La Follette School students shared their analysis of the costs and benefits for four municipalities to merge their fire departments and emergency medical services with officials in a December 17 presentation.