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Desoto County and Arcadia Discuss Merger Again

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  • captstanm1
    City to select citizen rep to merger talks

    ARCADIA -- The Arcadia City Council and the DeSoto County Commission have agreed to structure the city-county fire-rescue-EMS merger in the form of a joint discussion committee. The committee will include the city and county fire chiefs, the city and county administrators, one councilman and one commissioner, and one resident each from the city and county.

    Both the city and the county have yet to appoint their "resident" members. Both government bodies are meeting Tuesday and both have included the selection of their "resident" members on their respective agendas.

    The City Council has agreed that each councilman will bring to their next meeting a list of nominees.

    Neither the council nor the commission established any criteria for their selections other than residence requirements, so the two representatives could be just about anybody.

    The City Council has appointed Mayor-Councilman Dick Fazzone to represent the City Council in the merger talks. The board of commissioners has appointed Chairman Ronald Neads to represent the commission at the talks.

    No date has yet been set for the merger talks to begin.

    Other notable items on the council agenda include:

    * Two ordinances up for second readings: The first is an ordinance amending the zoning map of the city of Arcadia, to rezone Lots 11 through 30, Block 3, A.W. Gilchrist East End Addition to Arcadia from R-1B one-family dwelling to RPB-residential-professional-business. The second ordinance also amends the zoning map and rezones Lots 1 though 12, Block L, Ridgewood Subdivision of Arcadia from R-1B to C-1, Commercial. Both have been approved on first reading.

    * Jerry and Esther Luster, city homeowners, will return to the council to seek approval to construct a garage with a 5-foot setback at 219 E. Magnolia.

    * A representative of Helping Hands of Hardee County Inc. will ask for council approval to sell alcoholic beverages by the nonprofit organization at the rodeo grounds in Arcadia.

    * Anna Ford is asking for an exemption of a requirement for hood and exhaust system and handicapped restrooms at 305 West Oak St.

    * Judy Kirkpatrick, Chairperson, will present the council with the final report of DeSoto Vision.

    * The council will hear a presentation by a resident claiming that requiring police security at private gatherings is ineffective.

    * Traci Hill Femister, vice president of Sales and Marketing for Femister Watts will present community development program and affordable housing initiatives.

    * Proposal by Jim Crews Community Playground Inc. to dissolve the corporation and turn the assets over to the city.

    The Arcadia City Council meets at 6 p.m. in the Margaret Way Building, 23 North Polk Avenue, Arcadia.


    Staff Writer

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  • captstanm1
    started a topic Desoto County and Arcadia Discuss Merger Again

    Desoto County and Arcadia Discuss Merger Again

    City-county fire/rescue/EMS merger talks on again

    DESOTO COUNTY -- A joint meeting to reinitiate negotiations for merging city and county emergency services ended amicably, but on a note best described as "cautiously optimistic."

    The Arcadia City Council and the DeSoto County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to form an eight-member joint committee to attack the stubborn problems the proposed fire-rescue-EMS merger will have to accommodate or eliminate.

    The joint meeting took place Thursday in the Margaret Way Building in Arcadia. Arcadia Mayor Dick Fazzone presided over the meeting. He was flanked by Councilman Paul Whitlock and commission Chairman Ronald Neads.

    All the members of both bodies were present, along with City Administrator Ed Strube, County Administrator Jim Chisholm, County Attorney Howard Holtzendorf and City Attorney David Holloman.

    Aside from the two government bodies and their administrative staffs, the audience consisted mostly of the firemen and EMS personnel from the city and county public safety departments. None of them spoke at the meeting.

    During a round of opening statements by councilmen and commissioners, nobody voiced opposition to the concept of the merger. Almost everybody cautioned that the devil would be in the details of any agreement. Any merger, they all emphasized, would have to be "fair" to both sides.

    The idea of a small, manageable committee to tackle the details of the merger took shape gradually as members of the two bodies exchanged ideas about the best approach to the task of working out a merger agreement. The committee idea seemed to have the support of both sides.

    "We need to consider not only the council and the commission," Neads said, "(but) I think we need representation from the fire department. I suggest that both fire chiefs be part of the committee because they're the experts, and both administrators should be part of the committee, because they are the experts -- or their designee."

    It was City Councilman Roosevelt Johnson who took the step of making a motion to form the committee. DeSoto County's senior Commissioner Felton Garner supported the motion.

    A brief discussion followed as the details of the committee were ironed out.

    Holtzendorf noted that neither the commission nor the council were legally bound by the vote. It would, he said, be valid only as an expression of what each body wanted. He added that in order for the committee to operate in the sunshine, it should only include one commissioner and one councilman.

    Everyone agreed that the committee should remain as small as possible in order to be manageable.

    The committee will ultimately consist of one county commissioner and one city councilman, the city and county administrators, the city and county directors of public safety, and two "lay" members selected from the general public. Others could be invited to join when their expertise was required.

    "We'll need all the help we can get," Fazzone said.

    The County Commission and City Council now have to decide which member will represent their respective bodies, and will each have to choose a "lay person."

    No date was set for a meeting of the committee.

    Previous attempts at merging the two public safety departments -- the earliest of which date back to the early 1980s -- have failed.

    The latest attempt was August 2002. Talks between the council and commission broke down when the four members of a special city-county transition board agreed to disagree and voted to halt the talks.

    The city and county had been holding informal talks about the merger since January 2002.


    Staff Writer

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