Friday, September 5, 2014

Cities discuss options for fighting fires

Is consolidation an alternative?

Express Staff Writer

    A joint meeting Wednesday between the cities of Sun Valley and Ketchum regarding fire protection services across the two municipalities culminated in discussion over consolidated fire services, a well-worn topic in recent years.
    After sharing a ladder truck for years, both cities now have their own. Sun Valley finalized the sale of its half-share of the jointly owned 1987 Sutphen Aerial fire truck to Ketchum this week. In January, Sun Valley signed an agreement to lease a new 100-foot ladder truck, also known as Truck 61. The lease for the new truck was written so that Ketchum could buy in, but Ketchum has not done so. Sun Valley is scheduled to make 10 yearly payments of $112,425 to lessee Pierce Manufacturing beginning this fall.
    Insurance Services Office representative Doug Young joined the discussion. The Insurance Services Office, under the public protection classification, uses a 10-point rating system to judge the safety of cities’ fire defense programs. The variance in ratings makes for higher or lower property insurance costs. With 1 being the best classification, both Sun Valley and Ketchum are classified at 3 points. There are three categories for a total of 100 grading points, which are then converted into a percentage on a 10-point scale: receiving and handling of alarms, fire equipment and water supply.
    If the two cities were to share Truck 61, they would need to maintain the points gained from ladder-truck service from the ISO. Under the recently retired automatic-aid agreement between the two cities, the truck was transferred between both cities semi-annually. Unfortunately, the size of the new truck renders both the Ketchum Fire Station and Sun Valley City Hall station too small to accommodate it. It is currently housed at the Elkhorn Fire Station in Sun Valley.
    “If ISO points can be given with Truck 61 shared between Elkhorn Station and KFD Station 1, joint ownership could become a reality,” a presentation by Sun Valley Assistant Fire Chief Charlie Butterfield stated.
    The distance between service areas factors into the overall ISO rating, according to Young. He indicated that 2.5 miles between a fire station and the city limits is the range of acceptability outlined by the ISO.
    “It probably could work housed at Ketchum all the time,” Young said. “If it’s rotated from Elkhorn to KFD 1, the distance is too great.”
    This brought up another option in Butterfield’s presentation: the creation of a shared facility to house both Truck 61 and firefighters from both Ketchum and Sun Valley, potentially eliminating Sun Valley City Hall station and KFD Station 1.
    Members of the Sun Valley City Council pointed out citizens’ sensitivity over joint operation of any public service between the two cities. Ketchum Councilman Jim Slanetz countered that the two cities already share a water and sewer treatment plant.
    Sun Valley Councilman Peter Hendricks said it’s in the interest of both Sun Valley and Ketchum to explore consolidation options that promote financial efficiency.  
    Since both cities have functional ladder trucks, there isn’t a “pressing problem” to solve, Sun Valley Council President Keith Saks said, although Ketchum’s truck is considerably older.
    “As long as it’s serviced and still passes its tests, we still credit the device,” Young said.

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