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Provo & Orem may join forces!

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  • Provo & Orem may join forces!

    This was in the Daily Herald this morning.......

    The path of least resistance to north Provo may start in south Orem.

    That's an equation officials from the two cities are considering as they plan emergency response needs for the future. Both cities have growth -- Orem in its southwest sector, Provo in the northwest -- and both will need a fire station in the next several years. The two stations would probably go up within a mile or so of each other.

    Hence the light bulb -- join forces, save time and money.

    The idea being bandied about would be a cooperative venture between Orem and Provo; both cities would fund and staff a fire station that would either be on the north edge of Provo or the south edge of Orem and serve both cities. The plan is still in the preliminary stages of discussion and research, but it's one the two cities are taking seriously.

    "There's still a lot of ifs, but we're exploring the possibility," Orem Department of Public Safety Chief Mike Larsen said.

    The questions include cost, how it would be run, where it would be and when such a building would go up. The cities' needs are somewhat different, especially on timing; Orem is already developing the southwest sector and needs a new station in about two years, while Provo, which hasn't developed the affected area as quickly, doesn't need it so soon.

    "In a world in which we never coordinated with Orem, we would probably be three to five years out," Provo Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Parker said.

    The other question marks have some possible answers but nothing that's been determined; right now city staffers are looking at other cities throughout the state in similar situations.

    Parker said one possibility of running the station would be for one city to have a fire crew and one to have an EMS crew to make the administrative and chain of command issues more streamlined. Orem already has bought land, Larsen said. Cost, perhaps the biggest question, will be decided if the cities go forward with it and start asking for bids and hiring more people. Parker said the joint station could be bigger, which would cost more, or have other costs that haven't come up yet.

    "That's sort of the level we're at right now," Parker said.

    Another joint law enforcement possibility, even more preliminary than the combined station, is the idea of automatic aid, an idea city officials are discussing. Automatic aid means when a 911 call is made, the crew closest to the location goes regardless of city boundaries. It is essentially countywide fire and emergency response.

    "We're looking at that for all of the existing stages," Larsen said, adding no one even knew if this was feasible for Utah County yet.

    Weber County has this kind of system, and the model has worked well, Parker said. Currently it's more something to look at and think about than anything being planned, but the idea is out there, he said.

    "It's probably labeled exploratory at this point," he said. "I think it's just the talking stage."

    About six years ago, the idea of more communal emergency response was more than exploratory; the county studied the possibility of having three fire districts, one each in the north, central and south parts of the county. At that time only Provo and Orem had full-time firefighting capability.

    "The basic premise is that most people do not care what symbol is on the side of the truck that shows up," Commissioner Jerry Grover said.

    The numbers showed a decrease in costs by about $2 million, while having better equipment, better-trained and more firefighters and faster response times. When Grover took it to the county's mayors, though, none were interested, so the idea died.

    "I couldn't force them to do anything," he said.

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