New city fire department won’t save money

June 19th, 2009 by Ken

A 21st Century Fire Department.  That’s what Lacey City Manager Greg Cuoio wants and that’s what his consultants previewed at a Thursday evening work session of the Lacey City Council.

Consultants from ICMA, an international city manager’s group, told the councilmembers that a new, stripped down fire department, which did more than fight fires, was a possibility.

The consultants said that modern fire departments are integrated into the community.  During down times they do other things such as public education, fire prevention, and even sometimes do building inspections, once trained.

They’ve recommended that a new Lacey Fire Department can be staffed with 40 employees.  This allows the staffing of three city fire stations 24-hours per day.

The Willamette station will have two firefighter/EMTs, the Central Station on Pacific Avenue will have five firefighters/EMTs and the Mullen Road station will have three.  They will be supplemented by volunteers.   “This will be a challenge,” the consultants said.  “Trying to keep up the skill levels is tough, even for career firefighters.”

A comprehensive citywide program to place Automatic Electronic Defibrillators (AED) around the city will be crucial to provide life saving response.  The consultants recommended that all police and city vehicles be equipped with AEDs.  They also said these devices should be placed at all public areas around the city.

“A dollar spent in prevention saves $7 in costs,” they said.

While the price of this new department wasn’t mentioned, Lacey Mayor Graeme Sackrison said it wouldn’t be less.  “It’s going to cost us as much or more than we’re paying now,” he said.  “But perhaps we can do more with what we have and prepare for any changes in the future.”

Cuoio pointed out that the costs wouldn’t increase significantly down the road.  “We have a level of service which will meet our needs far into the future,” he said.  “We won’t need more stations or more personnel.”

The final report isn’t finished yet.  The consultants want to get another month of statistics under their belt before they release the full report to the public.  They also want to run the report by Lacey Fire District 3 officials to make certain the base line is accurate.

Lacey Fire District 3 has hired its own consulting firm and that report will be presented to fire commissioners in a week or two.

In the meantime, city and fire district officials have been negotiating a split of assets.  Lacey owns part of several fire stations and part of the district’s fire equipment.  Coming up with how to sever the relationship and agreeing on price is the purpose of the meetings.

The largest hangup right now in the negotiations is the cost of the land on which the fire stations sit.

Posted in Government, History, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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