Posts Tagged cities research consolidation of fire and EMS

Fire department consolidation proves complex

Excerpts from the

Citing nearly impossible legal hurdles at the state level, the Carpentersville Fire Department, East Dundee Fire Protection District and West Dundee Fire Department will not seek a complete consolidation at this time.

However, the fire chiefs do agree it should be a goal for the future. “It doesn’t mean we’re stopping and just not doing anything,” West Dundee Chief Randy Freise said. “We’re just not jumping in all at once. We’re breaking it down into smaller pieces.”

In November of 2014, members of the Carpentersville Village Board, East Dundee and Countryside Fire Protection District Board, and West Dundee Village Board shared the $30,908 expense to initiate the study by Emergency Services Consulting International. In October of this year, results from that in-depth study concluded consolidating fire services would make sense.

However, Freise said during a presentation at Monday’s board meeting, when the fire chiefs were tasked with analyzing the study and discussing the results with their respective boards “we came to the conclusion a complete legal consolidation at this time would be too difficult to do.”

Freise said a state law passed in the last year and a half requires more hurdles in order to make consolidations possible. “Now we have referendums and court appearances and all these different things we have to do in order to do this,” he said. “It kind of takes the decision away from the local boards and makes it much more difficult.”

They plan to keep working toward the ultimate goal of a potential full consolidation. That includes the possibility of forming work groups represented by members of each department and municipality and tasked with developing a regional approach to providing the best outcome, and a regional board that would include a fire chief from each of the respective towns and a trustee from that town to consider the recommendations of the work groups.

The fire chiefs are also meeting with Sen. Karen McConnaughay this month to discuss the roadblocks in state law considering consolidation, Freise said. “One of our goals is to meet with local legislators to make them aware the state is making it more difficult and to see if we can’t change the legislation and make it more streamlined,” he said.

Freise said in the last few weeks he has also heard from the Rutland-Dundee Township Fire Protection District chief who is interested in joining the conversation of a possible future consolidation. “A big piece of our regional puzzle that has been missing from the onset is participation of Rutland-Dundee Township Fire Protection District,” he said. “Through all of this we’ve continued to work closely with them and will most likely continue to do so in the future, no matter what it holds.”

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Municipalities investigate consolidation for fire & EMS

The Chicago Tribune has an article about a study to investigate a consolidation of fire and EMS services of the Highwood, Highland Park, Lake Forest, and Lake Bluff fire departments.

Lake Forest, Highland Park, Lake Bluff and Highwood are expected to form a task force in early 2013 to study ways to save money through collaboration — including the consolidation of fire protection and emergency medical services for their 60,000 residents.

Going with the national trend of consolidation could save the four communities between $1 million and $1.8 million annually, according to a study by the International City/County Management Association.

Lake Forest dispatches its own fire/EMS and police, and on contract dispatches Lake Bluff’s 100-year old volunteer fire department, as well as providing ambulance service to Lake Bluff.

Highwood contracts with Lake Forest for police dispatch and goes through Regional Emergency Dispatch (RED) in Northbrook for fire/EMS. Highland Park, with nearly 2,000 fire/EMS calls annually, dispatches all of its public safety calls.

Another option would be to contract with an existing universal dispatch center, such as Northbrook’s Regional Emergency Dispatch, and a third option would be housing dispatch for fire, EMS and police under one roof, Irvin said.

Leonard Matarese, director of research and project development at the ICMA Center for Public Safety Management, analyzed the four jurisdictions’ fire and EMS needs.

“The longtime premise nationally has been to have same level staffing, 24/7, for fire and EMS, but the realization over the last five years (globally) is that workloads and service demands have peaks and valleys,” he said. “Analyzing services workloads and calls convinced fire prevention officials in England over a decade ago to allocate staff based on time of day and days of the week. Typically, fires and EMS calls occur during the day and slow down by 9 or 10 at night.”

The ICMA study suggests there are three alternatives related to firefighting and emergency medical services:

“Functional consolidation,” which involves cooperation across jurisdictions for a common service, but the four departments remain separate entities.

“Operational consolidation” maintains a legal separation, but the four departments join operations and administration to function as a single agency.

“Full consolidation” merges four fire departments into a single entity, in which jurisdictional boundaries “become invisible” and all service demands become single functions of the department.

The ICMA projects the functional and operational alternatives could save members between $950,000 and $1.5 million annually; with full consolidation savings between $1.4 million and $1.95 million.

“It’s typically political, financial, labor contracts and retirement systems that are major issues,” said Matarese. “But these four cities are already at a certain level of sharing, cooperation and functional consolidation. Also, they do some joint purchasing and standardizing of equipment.”

The entire article can be viewed HERE.

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