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District Consolidation thoughts and advice

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  • District Consolidation thoughts and advice

    Any experience or thoughts on 4 or 5 small town and rural departments consolidating into one district? Let me know what the circumstances were, where you're at, and what issues arouse! Thank in advance!

  • #2
    Before the formation of the town-wide fire district here, fire protection was provided by a combination of a village fire department (a taxing entity), a small fire district (also a taxing entity), two fire departments (each of which owned apparatus, one owned the fire station in which they were housed) and the township, which collected a fire protection tax and contracted with the village and the small fire district for that territory outside their borders.

    Post merge, we still have functionally two fire departments, but all firefighters a appointed by (and therefore are employees of) the town-wide fire district. All funding for fire equipment comes from the tax levy assessed by the fire district. The township actually collects the money, then passes it straight to the district.

    By and large, it's worked out, although there are those who chafed under new procurement rules (many were used to wheeling and dealing, not having to get quotes and bids). Both departments still select their own chain of command, which is then approved by the district (this in accordance with state law for fire districts).

    If I had to pick one problem, however, it would be the lack of diversity that has developed on the board of fire district commissioners. Ideally, there should be a range of skills and abilities on such a board - community members who are willing to manage the money responsibly and take on the other responsibilities that accrue to them as the Authority Having Jurisdiction (this includes required training, physicals, etc).

    All too often, the boards become populated by firefighters - resulting in the inmates running the asylum, if you will. Not that they aren't generally responsible, but someone has to be the one who asks if it's a "want" or a "need," and justify same. Sometimes it's "obvious" to the firefighters on the board, even though others might question a decision.

    A neighboring township recently merged all the fire resources (two departments, three stations) into one joint fire district. They now function as a single fire department, and by all accounts, they are doing well.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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