Five city councils will gather April 12 to talk about the potential future of shared fire services.
It will be the final meeting of the Shared Services Fire Committee, which began meeting in October 2011 to investigate the benefits and issues of combining fire services for the cities of Bethel, Nowthen, Oak Grove, Ramsey and St. Francis.
At the 7 p.m. April 12 meeting at the Ramsey Municipal Center, 7550 Sunwood Drive N.W., St. Francis City Administrator Matt Hylen will go over the findings of the committee, which included city administrators, an elected official, the fire chief and a firefighter from each city.
The council members will seeing a Power Point presentation on the findings of the committee, with the goal of stimulating further investigation of the possibility of shared fire services, he said.
According to the committee’s final report, research found benefits of shared services, including the impact to ISO (Insurance Service Office) ratings, standardized training, increased buying power, increased employee pool, improved response times and long-term operational savings.
But the final report also points out some issues to sharing service, including impacts on firefighter relief associations, which are typically set up by individual fire departments and receive funding from the state and cities for firefighter retirement plans.
Issues could also develop over the allocation of existing equipment and debt, the report states.
“Additional effort needs to be put forth to discuss with all community participants on exactly where their community property stays/goes,” said Ramsey Fire Chief Dean Kapler, who is also interim fire chief for St. Francis, in the report.
Other issues cities could face are an increase in budgets to create new public services system structure where they do not exist or need to be upgraded and choosing a governing structure and make-up of the combined department.
“Residents want their government to get the greatest possible outcome for every tax dollar they spend,” said Kapler in his final committee report.
“The shared fire services have identified some consolidated resources that would provide the best use of the taxpayers’ dollars. Based on the information contained in the report, it is the consensus of the committee that there is value in proceeding to further evaluate the feasibility of a shared fire service for the communities involved.”
The councils will have until June 1 to decide if they will continue with the shared services study.
Each city will have the chance to submit questions to committee following the April 12 meeting so they will have the answers they need to make their decisions, Hylen said.
Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]