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Miami Fla--Sheriff Bids to Control Fire/EMS in Broward County

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  • captstanm1
    Sheriff Wants More


    Merger talk of police, fire stirs debate
    Cooper City's police and fire departments may join the Broward Sheriff's Office under a proposed merger. But some residents, preferring locally run departments, are opposed.

    [email protected]

    Cooper City officials are considering a plan to merge the police and fire departments into the Broward Sheriff's Office.

    If the deal goes through, Cooper City would become the latest in a string of municipalities to fuel Sheriff Ken Jenne's growing force of deputies and firefighters.

    BSO now provides police service to 11 municipalities and fire-rescue service to five after its Oct. 1 takeover of the county's firefighting and paramedic service.

    Cooper City officials, who initiated talks with Jenne, say a merger could generate budget savings and improve service.

    Jenne is expected to meet with police and fire employees this afternoon to explain how a merger might work and to answer questions.

    City officials and a BSO spokeswoman emphasized that merger talks are still in the preliminary stages, with no written contract and no formal deal under consideration.

    But some residents and city employees already have come out against the proposal, arguing it would cost the city in other ways.

    ''I think it's an inappropriate idea at its very core,'' said Steven Marhee, longtime president of the Embassy Lakes Homeowners Association, adding he believes residents treasure the local, personal touch of their police and fire departments.

    ''At every, turn residents have opted for quality over price, and I don't think police or fire services are going to be the place where they choose to save some money,'' he said.

    Police Sgt. Matt Buschman, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, said that while some of the union's 54 members are ''intrigued'' by the merger idea, others oppose it. Job security and retirement benefits are high on their list of concerns.

    Like Marhee, Buschman said he believes the merger could undermine the department's rare, close relationship with the community.

    Fire Chief Joseph Lello, head of a 39-member department, said it was too early for him to comment. Kevin Donnelly, a local fire union leader, could not be reached for comment.

    Today's meeting with Jenne, scheduled for 2 p.m. at the police department and expected to be closed to the public, was apparently called in hopes of easing concerns over a possible merger.

    ''There are more rumors than one can possibly respond to,'' Police Chief Edward J. Werder wrote in a recent department memo announcing the meeting. ``Rather than speculate with rumors it is important that specific and defined information be provided to each of you so that you will know how such an event, if it occurred, would affect you.''

    City Manager Christopher Farrell cited the potential advantages of a merger at a time of tight budgets, soaring pension and benefit costs, and rising tax rates.

    Cooper City officers turned BSO deputies would retain their ranks and remain on assignment in the city, Farrell said. And they could receive new benefits under a merger, such as take-home cars, the option to join the state retirement plan, and the chance to apply for promotions within a larger organization that has more opportunities for advancement.

    No jobs would be lost, and the city could save ''a significant amount of money,'' Farrell said, though he declined to provide estimates.

    ''Could it represent a reduction in [the tax rate]? Absolutely,'' he said. ``Would our services be enhanced? Yes.''

    Cooper City Commissioner M. Scott Kleiman said the notion of saving money and possibly broadening services appeals to him, but not if it means losing the strong community presence the police and fire departments provide. ''In my mind, there are some upsides and downsides,'' he said.

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  • captstanm1
    mcaldwell...I see where you are coming from. Apparently here, the concern is that the Sheriff is trying to create a kingdom for himself in the interest of politics, not in the interest of public safety.

    There are quite a few places in the U.S. where there is a Director of Public Safety that oversees the fire, ems and police and it works well, from what I am told.

    I kinda feel that the folks there do not have a trememdous problem with the concept, rather they have a problem with the projected leader.

    That's my take.

    Leave a comment:

  • mcaldwell
    It is important to clarify that this venture will not see the Sgt at the local police detachment in charge of any fire dept's. At the level of management that they are talking about, it is exactly that - MANAGEMENT!

    The guys who will initially fill the top roles have not been beat cops for decades, and soon firefighters will likely be able to move into those top positions as well. Those jobs are paper pushers who are there to save money and make sure the paycheques get printed. Many companies hire senior managers who have little or no experience in the industry they are working in simply because they just have good financial or general management skills. You don't need to be a firefighter to decide how to pay the overtime.

    As the manager of the Fire Dept/Medical Services/and Security Dept here an my resort community, this does not worry me and I see many benefits to it. It will consolidate many little or part-time jobs between the agencies. Also, we are always complaining about inter-agency relations, and the lack of communications between us. Well in Broward county I think that issue is about to go right out the window.

    Leave a comment:

  • hwoods
    Coz' Has a Good Point

    A Countywide system can, and does, work well. For example, Here, (PG County, Md) We have a Government run by a County Executive, with a County Council (9 members). All are elected for 4 year terms, the Executive is County wide, Council members by district, like the President and House of Representatives at the national level. The Executive appoints department heads, including Police and Fire Chiefs, subject to Council approval.

    Except for the "back room deal" possibilities, this system has served us reasonably well for the last 33 years. The current County Executive is very interested in improvements the public safety field, and is working with all parts of the Fire service to get things done.

    With 800,000 people, Our county is more heavily populated than San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, or 5 US states. A County Fire/EMS department is made up of about 675 full time employees, approx 3,000 volunteers (serving in several categories) operating from 47 Stations, with over 400 vehicles of all types, responding out the door 301,000 times last year. 6 stations are totally Volunteer, 39 are staffed by a combination of Career and Volunteer, and only 2 are fully paid. 37 Stations and about 75% of the apparatus are owned by the Volunteer organizations, the balance By County Govenment except the State owns the University of Maryland station that is operated by the College Park VFD.

    Volunteers serve in all ranks of the dept. up thru Asst. Chief* at the county level, as well as each VFD station has it's own officers up thru Chief. In a variation of the chain of command not seen very often, the local Volunteer Chief Officers are ranked above the County Battalion Chiefs. Also the Career Battalion Chiefs only work "Day work", an 8 hour shift on weekdays, and Volunteer chiefs provide coverage Nights, Weekends and Holidays.

    There is a County Police Department that is totally separate from Fire/EMS as far as organization, Etc. Both Fire and Police work well together running calls, and providing public safety education at community events. Many police officers are also volunteer firefighters.

    In short, Yes, a Countywide system has great advantages, (if properly constructed and operated) far too many to list here. Questions? email me.

    * We refer to Asst. Chiefs as Majors, a holdover from when we used titles that more closely fit Law Enforcement.

    Stay Safe....
    Last edited by hwoods; 06-29-2003, 10:02 AM.

    Leave a comment:

  • cozmosis
    A county-wide fire department is a good concept. I wish they would put together such a program in my hometown. The benefits of central dispatch, pre-determined multiple-department alarm assignments and bulk purchasing would far outweigh any negatives.

    However, look at the ****ing match in NYC. Anytime you have police and fire debating who is in charge... trouble ensues. I can't imagine firefighters enjoying have police officers for bosses. And, certainly, career police officers will not manage a fire department as a career firefighter would.

    Leave a comment:

  • hwoods
    You CAN Save Money......

    One of the ways to save a buck here is to consolidate all emergency reporting in one central location. Dail 911 anywhere in Broward and the phone will ring in the same answering center. The savings of a regional center are pretty plain and upfront. Look at Fire Training. One training center for the county as a whole. Purchasing. Several stations need hose? Buy 10,000 feet at a time, the price will be lower than buying 1,000 feet at a time. The list could go on and on. This could be the end of "It's my call, no, It's my call" arguements on the radio. The greatest thing for the citizens would be if everyone in the county got the closest available help, every time, without regard to where the help came from. Sounds Good to me. Stay Safe....

    Leave a comment:

  • Resq14
    Originally posted by cozmosis
    Police & fire are apples and oranges. I'm suprised that the fire unions are interested in being "taken over" by the sheriff.
    Sheriff Ken Jenne
    In most instances, law enforcement and fire-rescue perform the same function: protecting life and property during the most dangerous moments of a person's life.
    I think that's a good explanation. No, it doesn't work everywhere, but public safety officers (police, fire, EMS) work in communities and locations around the country every day. It doesn't sound like they're even proposing to take the full plunge to cross-trained personnel... sounds more like adminisrative reorganization for now.

    Leave a comment:

  • captstanm1

    Partnership can pave way for others

    By Ben Graber
    Posted June 23 2003

    Last week, the Broward County Commission voted to begin negotiations with the Broward Sheriff's Office to partner on the provision of fire-rescue services to citizens living in the unincorporated areas and contracted municipalities. The importance of this decision is twofold.

    First, the close coordination of services with a unified command center will further strengthen our fire-rescue system, which was corrected last year. The county spent an additional $4 million on improvements, which included enhanced regional communications through facilitation of closest-unit response, development of dedicated special operations for hazardous materials, technical rescue, enhanced air rescue, provision of an Everglades special rescue unit, provision of an EMS training support units for cities, and performance measures.

    Second, the formation of a partnership with our sheriff will serve as a model for future partnerships with our other constitutional officers. This will promote efficiency and decrease duplication of services, resulting in lower overall costs to the county.

    The weakness of our charter system lies in the obstruction of expeditious decision making. This is most apparent during crisis situations. A delay of action even for a few minutes could translate to loss of life and resources, not because of bad decisions, but because of slow decisions. The loss of life in the 9-11 disaster might have been significantly less if the emergency services had been organized under a single unified command. This is a lesson we should heed.

    The future of partnerships between the commission and constitutional officers will depend on the success of this arrangement, since the BSO is our largest partner with the largest budget of all the constitutional officers, over $500 million. Past attempts to partner with another constitutional office, the supervisor of elections, yielded mixed results. The administration of the general election was successful when an agreement was in place, but without the continued cooperation of the supervisor, it failed.

    As we move forward, the commission and sheriff should bear in mind that the success of any agreement and the formation of a true partnership will depend on the relationship between the commission and the presiding constitutional officer.

    Ben Graber is the District 3 member of the Broward County Commission.

    Leave a comment:

  • captstanm1
    Lettter to Editor from Sheriff

    Sun-Sentinel.com Letters to the Editor

    Merger is beneficial

    By Ken Jenne
    Posted June 16 2003

    In most instances, law enforcement and fire-rescue perform the same function: protecting life and property during the most dangerous moments of a person's life.

    The actions of first responders [to an emergency] often determine life and death, destruction and preservation, injury and safety. First responders must be able to communicate, prioritize tasks and assign responsibilities while protecting themselves and others, all while under fire and within the first moments of a critical incident.

    Gone are the days when we considered ourselves vulnerable to large-scale disaster only during hurricane season. There are new realities and new threats of terrorist events, weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological dangers and a new Department of Homeland Security with a new National Alert System. Today, we have to be prepared and vigilant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

    Hurricane Andrew taught us the value of training for large-scale disasters and their aftermath.

    The Oklahoma City bombing taught us about domestic terror.

    The events at Waco, Texas, showed us the dangers involved when fire-rescue and law enforcement work together in hostile environments.

    The Columbine school shooting showed us the need to have SWAT and EMS train and work together.

    At New York's Ground Zero, we learned the value of unifying command posts and common communication systems.

    Closer to home, the AMI Building anthrax scare was our first encounter with the unseen terror of chemical and biological threats. It taught us the need to integrate our medical system and to understand the dangers of contamination.

    Using these lessons, we believe that the best way to protect the public is for first responders to join forces, train together, plan together and unify our command structure. It is with those experiences and lessons in mind and in the best interest of the safety and security of this community that the Broward Sheriff's Office will propose to contract with the Broward County Commission for fire-rescue services on Tuesday.

    I am convinced that, if given the opportunity, the men and women of BSO and Broward County Fire- Rescue working together can improve response times and deliver the highly trained professionals this community counts on in an emergency, whether it is responding to a terrorist incident or responding to an emergency at your home, school or place of business.

    A unified command will better prepare our community's response to critical incidents and it will give the taxpayers and the County Commission enhanced service at a lower cost with greater accountability.

    It is in honor of those firefighters and law enforcement professionals; in memory of the innocent victims of terror, natural disaster and senseless violence; and with an eye on the future and a hope for a safer tomorrow that we offer this proposal.

    Ken Jenne is the sheriff of Broward County.

    Leave a comment:

  • captstanm1
    UPDATE: County Considers It!


    Broward weighing merger of Sheriff's Office, Fire-Rescue

    By Kevin Smith
    Staff Writer
    Posted June 16 2003

    The decision before the Broward County Commission -- whether to put the county's fire-rescue services in the hands of Sheriff Ken Jenne -- hinges on questions of savings, unification and power.

    While saving tax dollars will be a key issue, commissioners reviewing the matter Tuesday also will likely consider what the deal will mean for the unification of fire departments throughout the county, the benefits of linking the fire-rescue and law enforcement departments and whether it's good public policy to trust one elected official with such a large part of the county budget.

    Last week, Jenne presented the commission with his proposal, and commissioners could vote Tuesday to have county administrator Roger Desjarlais start negotiating the deal.

    "The thing I like about the proposed contract is, one, it saves the taxpayers money," said Commissioner Joseph Eggelletion. "Two, it brings us a step closer to a unified fire, EMS [emergency medical service] and rescue service that I think Broward desperately needs."

    Jenne estimated he will be able to save the county about $900,000, telling the Editorial Board of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the savings would come from reducing overtime through more efficient scheduling, and shifting payroll, human resources, training, legal services and other administrative functions to the sheriff's office.

    The savings would actually be about $2 million, but more than half of that would be used to increase the medical insurance coverage of fire-rescue employees to the level of sheriff's office employees.

    Some commissioners, however, questioned whether costs would be reduced or merely shifted from one office to another. The proposal sent to the commission illustrated how services could be consolidated and how communications between the fire-rescue and sheriff's units could be streamlined. But the package made only vague mention of how tax dollars would be saved.

    "I felt it was incomplete, and I was a little disappointed," said Commissioner Ben Graber. As he reviewed the presentation last week, Graber said he was looking forward to seeing "Exhibit F," mentioned in a draft contract as the list of payments to be made to the Sheriff's Office.

    But "Exhibit F" doesn't yet exist, according to Sheriff's Office spokesman Jim Leljedal. The exact numbers were still being developed and he couldn't offer any more specifics about the savings.

    "We can all agree philosophically about it, but the details are in the cost savings," Graber said. "We want to save money doing this, not spend more money."

    Another commissioner, John Rodstrom, however, said saving money was a secondary benefit, less significant than the prospect of unifying the county's many fire departments.

    "If there were ways to save money, we would have done them," Rodstrom said. "The only way to save money over the long haul is where you get more market share and do away with this patchwork [of smaller departments]. The savings up front is not the reason to do this. The savings will come over the long term."

    County officials have almost universally praised Jenne as an administrator capable of controlling expenses, and officials in four cities said contracting with the sheriff saved them money and worked well. Since 1998, Pompano Beach, Oakland Park, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and North Lauderdale have contracted with the sheriff for patrol services, bringing to 11 the number of cities for which Jenne provides police services.

    Oakland Park City Manager John Stunson and North Lauderdale spokeswoman Pam Donovan said each town has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, while Lauderdale-by-the-Sea was able to upgrade its services without spending more, according to Town Manager Robert Baldwin. In Pompano Beach, the city has saved at least $5 million a year since contracting with the sheriff's office in 1999, Assistant City Manager Mark Lauzier said.

    But saving money isn't everything, said Plantation Mayor Rae Carole Armstrong. Having their own department allows officials to be more responsive and efficient, so contracting out was not an option, she said.

    "Never considered it, never will," she said. "We do feel Ken Jenne does a great job at what he does, but as far as municipal services, it's our intent to maintain our own services for both fire and police."

    Lauderhill was patrolled by sheriff's deputies from the early 1980s through 1995 and could be paying the sheriff's office about $5 million for around 50 patrol deputies, said Mayor Richard Kaplan. The city instead has its own police department with an $8 million budget and nearly 100 officers.

    "Sheriff Jenne may be able to do wonderful things with numbers, but one of the things we found was that sheriffs come and sheriffs go, and no two are the same," he said. "When sheriffs changed, so did our service."

    When Jenne's proposal first came out, some county officials said it was a bad idea to base public policy on the skills of one individual. Rodstrom, however, said Jenne's skills as an administrator and a proposed contract clause allowing the county to reassume control of the fire rescue division make the proposal worthy of careful consideration.

    "People have a lot of faith in the man," Rodstrom said. "He's done an excellent job, he's an excellent administrator and I'm glad he's got an appetite for a greater workload."

    Staff Writer Buddy Nevins contributed to this report.

    Kevin Smith can be reached at [email protected] or at 954-572-2009.

    Leave a comment:

  • mtnfireguy
    Guns & Hoses !!!

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  • cozmosis
    Police & fire are apples and oranges. I'm suprised that the fire unions are interested in being "taken over" by the sheriff.

    Leave a comment:

  • TheOldSchool
    Seperate entities! A definite no, no.

    Leave a comment:

  • Miami Fla--Sheriff Bids to Control Fire/EMS in Broward County

    Miami Herald

    Posted on Wed, Jun. 11, 2003

    Sheriff bids again to run fire, rescue operations
    Jenne: Move will save Broward $900,000
    [email protected]

    Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne on Tuesday unveiled a proposal to manage firefighting and paramedic services for Broward County by incorporating its 554 fire-rescue employees under his law-enforcement umbrella.

    Advocates say the takeover plan, submitted in writing to commissioners, would save the county an estimated $900,000, but they argue that the cost savings are secondary to consolidating Broward's disparate jumble of more than two dozen fire-rescue services.

    That consolidation would not be automatic, but Jenne's track record indicates it might happen. As sheriff, he has contracted to provide law enforcement for 11 cities.

    Broward County Mayor Diana Wasserman-Rubin, who has backed the plan since a version of it was introduced a year ago, will ask county commissioners to vote on it next week.

    She said Tuesday that her support for the idea solidified after she read about how New York City firefighters and police officers weren't able to communicate with each other on Sept. 11 because they operated on different radio systems.

    ''I really sincerely believe that this is in the best interest of the people of Broward County,'' Wasserman-Rubin told The Herald. Jenne could not be reached for comment.

    The mayor appears to have the backing of several other commissioners, including Jim Scott and Ben Graber, who was the swing vote in the 5-4 vote that killed a similar proposal last year.

    Supporters say they admire Jenne's management style and think it would translate well to fire-rescue operations.

    ''It's certainly worthy of serious consideration because the sheriff has a proven record of being able to operate efficiently and effectively, and to contract with cities for law enforcement services,'' Commissioner Jim Scott said during a telephone interview.


    Another Jenne ally is the union representing Port Everglades firefighters, which has tried to break away from the county for years. All three unions within Broward County Fire-Rescue have voted to come under the sheriff's umbrella.

    ''We support it because the bottom line is that Broward County government has not maintained the integrity of the port's fire delivery system,'' Joe Benavides, the president of the Broward County Council of Professional Firefighters said in a telephone interview. ``They have no commitment to make this department better.''

    But the plan has its critics, including three county commissioners: Ilene Lieberman, Lori Parrish and John Rodstrom.

    They argue that it consolidates more power under one elected official and that Jenne's skills at providing police protection for 11 contract cities won't necessarily translate to firefighting.

    ''You need to be careful,'' Lieberman said after Tuesday's County Commission meeting.

    ``The issues for fire-rescue are different than building the considerable police force he's built.''

    Broward County Administrator Roger Desjarlais also has some concerns, including whether the county would save any money by handing over the department to BSO. And Jenne may have the administrative and political skills to manage fire services, but his successors in the elected office may not, Desjarlais pointed out after the commission meeting.

    The deal would put Jenne in charge of all public safety at Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, county facilities that are overseen by the County Commission.


    Discussions about consolidating Broward County Fire-Rescue under BSO were first seriously introduced in 2001, when a consultant released a study critical of the county's patchwork of 24 municipal fire departments and multiple dispatch systems.

    Currently, Broward County Fire-Rescue provides firefighting and paramedic services to unincorporated areas of the county and several cities, the largest of which is Weston. Since the study, the county has pumped more money into the department and has recently hired 40 employees.

    Many of those new firefighters have come from the county's smaller departments, such as Margate, Lauderdale Lakes and North Lauderdale. Privately, some supporters of Jenne's proposal say that those small cities -- which are struggling to pay for training, equipment and other costs -- would be prime targets for fire protection contracts with the sheriff.

    Since he became sheriff in January 1998, Jenne has taken over patrols in 11 Broward cities, expanding his turf to more than one third of the county. He provides security -- at an ever-growing cost since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and the Broward County Courthouse.

    Jenne also runs the jails, probation, drug court, truancy programs and child-abuse investigations.

    The cities include the booming and relatively quiet suburb of Weston as well as older eastern cities with more complex crime problems, such as Pompano Beach.

    The $20 million fire and rescue budget would be a relatively small portion of Jenne's public safety budget; he recently submitted a request to the county for the 2003-2004 budget year for $464 million, up from $250 million five years ago. If the concept is approved, fire-rescue employees would make up just over 10 percent of BSO's 4,500-strong employee base.

    Herald staff writer Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.

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