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Details Of Plan That Could Consolidate Volunteer Fire Departments

6:59 PM, Nov 2, 2011   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- Guilford County Emergency Services Director Alan Perdue said consolidation of fire departments is nothing new to our area.

It happened in Greensboro with the Guilford College, Pinecroft-Sedgefield and Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department's.

So just what are the pros and cons of consolidation?

New Hanover County, where the city of Wilmington is, consolidated its county volunteer fire departments last year.

The New Hanover County Fire Chief, Donnie Hall, said they experienced numerous positives, including improved response time, better service, lower tax rates and lower insurance rates.

He added there were problems with consolidation, including working out lease agreements as needed with volunteer fire departments.

Chief Hall said people's reaction to the consolidation was mixed and that not everyone gets on board and you have to deal with that, "It's not like the merger is going to cut off a particular area, and we're no longer going to have fires. We're no longer going to have medical emergencies in those areas. So the same number of people that are needed today to provide those services for the most part is going to be needed post-consolidation."

Guilford County Emergency Services Director Alan Perdue says consolidation might not happen at all in Guilford County.

"At this point in time worrying as human beings, 92 percent of what we worry about never happens. What we simply are trying to do is get the report back. Analyze the report. Look for opportunities to enhance service delivery and move forward with those," said Perdue. 

Perdue stresses that any decision made will come from the county commissioners because it's not his decision.

He further told News 2 they could decide to do nothing at all.

Guilford County spent $100,000 to hire a consultant to research the strengths and weaknesses of its fire agencies.

News 2 has a copy of the draft which lists three big ideas as well as smaller changes.

The study lists changes to enhance delivery of fire services so every resident has the same level of protection.

The three big overhaul-ideas are as follows:

Option one: No consolidation, but regional cooperation. This would create regional standard operating procedures and guidelines, develop a regional support and put in place common training standards.

Option two: Full consolidation, but with multiple contractors. This creates one single fire protection district that would include all of the unincorporated areas of the county. While this is similar to what we have now, this district body would then negotiate the various contracts with the nonprofit fire department corporations.

Option three: Full consolidation. The separate and independent fire department corporations would eventually be merged into one county fire department under a single fire protection or service district tax model.

A company called Emergency Services Consulting International conducted the study. This company has evaluated fire departments all over the nation. A senior vice president said the group's findings -- which ask commissioners to consider consolidation -- are just trying to help save time and resources.

"It's not necessarily that the current system has any significant deficiencies. It's more a case of are we getting the best use of the overall cost and the overall expense of fire protection," said Phil Kouwe, Senior Project Manager. 


WFMY News 2

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