Friday, September 3, 2010

Fire consolidation study begins

Consultants interviewing stakeholders this week

Express Staff Writer

A city fire truck waits at the ready in Hailey.

A long-awaited study that could lead to consolidation of fire departments and emergency services agencies in the south valley has begun. Interviews with individual stakeholders this week could lead to collective cost savings and more efficient services.

There are eight emergency fire and medical-service agencies in southern Blaine County. They range in size from the Carey Rural Fire District to the much larger Hailey Fire Department and Wood River Fire & Rescue.

For many years there have been efforts to discuss a possible consolidation of these agencies. The city of Hailey and the Wood River Fire Protection District are splitting the $48,000 cost of a study to see if consolidation of some of these agencies could save money and increase efficiency.

"If it's done right, no one loses," Bellevue City Administrator Tom Blanchard said.

Blanchard organized a schedule for the consultants to meet with stakeholders this week in private interview sessions. He said the study will be completed in about four months.

"Consolidation worked well with the two hospitals years ago, even though there was antagonism at the beginning," Blanchard said.

St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center was built after a consolidation of staff from Moritz Hospital in Sun Valley and Blaine County Hospital in Hailey.

Three consultants from Emergency Services Consulting International, based in Wilsonville, Ore., have been gathering detailed information on equipment inventories, budgeting and emergency response records from stakeholders in advance of their visit. They are interviewing city officials, firefighters and emergency responders this week.

"This may lead to an integrated system, or it may not," Blanchard said. "Right now the consultants are talking to individuals and going onto depth."

The consultants will return to Oregon by the end of the week to analyze the data. By November, the study is expected to yield several possible scenarios for consolidation.

The stakeholders will then decide if any of the proposed scenarios would be beneficial.

Tony Evans:

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