For the last couple of years the City of Kent has been part of a regional team of cities and towns looking at our respective fire services to see if there were opportunities to do more together to improve services and save money. That study group recently completed the second phase of their study and they are currently making the circuit around the region to present their findings, and see if there is interest to implement some of the recommendations.
There’s already some of areas of fire services, like Haz Mat, where we partner with our neighbors but as staffing and budgets have become even tighter the idea of sharing more services has become a matter of necessity. The costs for fire services, especially the apparatus, is so high that an increasing number of cities and towns around the region have started making purchases of the big ticket items together. That’s raised questions about whether those cities could be sharing even more in terms of Fire services — and Kent’s a good example of where that works.
Here in Kent we have a contract with Franklin Township to run all the fire/ems 911 calls that come in from the township. The township reimburses the City on a per run price basis and they have also helped with some of the capital purchase needs. It’s a partnership that works, and with more and more examples of those sorts of partnerships popping up, the region’s Fire Chiefs thought that it might make sense to take a more serious look at more formal partnerships — which is how the Fire Services Blending Study was born.
The study was intentionally titled Fire Service Blending Study because when you start talking sharing Fire services, loyalties to existing fire services rise to the forefront and threaten to make talk of any service consolidations DOA. Sharing services that cross jurisdictional boundaries is always a challenge but when it comes to matters of life and death the idea of sharing can immediately fall victim to parochial interests before it even gets out the door. I think everyone understood that and they have tried to show how movement towards some consolidation could come in a series of baby steps rather than a quantum leap to something entirely new — like a Fire District.
The Study Group presented their second phase report to City Council last week and it seemed clear to me that there was a lot of value to the study process. We’ve got a lot more information about who’s doing what, how they are doing it, and where the opportunities are to do things better than we did when we started. City Council seemed to share that impression and they’ve authorized more follow up on certain areas within the study, e.g., joint purchasing, standardized fire response procedures, shared training, etc., to keep this concept evolving over the next couple of years.
Here’s a little more details about the study and the findings from Kent’s Public Safety Director, Bill Lillich:
The PAFERS fire study report was recently distributed to the elected and administrative officials of the participating communities. A presentation by the consultants was conducted on Tuesday, October 5 in which the essential parts of the report were presented and discussed.
At the conclusion of the October 5 meeting, representatives of the communities discussed what the next steps should be to continue the progress. The consensus decision was for the elected officials of each of the communities to review the report and to make a commitment to proceed with an implementation board. The duties of that board would be to refine the recommendations of the report, and set a more definitive direction to move forward. It is requested that commitments to continue are made prior to the next meeting of the steering committee, which is set for November 2, 2010.
Here is the powerpoint presentation of the Phase II Report.