Fire department survey on Wayne County commissioners Tuesday agenda
By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 14, 2013 1:50 AM
A study suggesting that the county's smaller volunteer fire departments merge with larger ones, that the duties of the county fire marshal's office be expanded, and that a new county fire commission be created will be discussed by Wayne County commissioners when they meet on Tuesday.
The study's long-term suggestions are for the following mergers:
* Antioch with an agency identified by the department as "most appropriate"
* East Wayne with New Hope
* Eureka administratively merge with a "larger neighboring agency"
* Faro administratively merge with a "larger neighboring agency"
* Pinewood with Saulston, leaving one engine at the Pinewood station, which would become the responsibility of county EMS
* Polly Watson with an agency to be announced, leaving an engine, brush truck and tanker to remain in service
* Thoroughfare with a department identified as "most appropriate."
The changes could enhance response time and administration by consolidating leadership and operations, the study reports.
According to the study, alternate proposals might be possible and that the final decision "may be to do nothing. These are political decisions that need to be made locally."
It further recommends that the other departments continue to look at establishing plans to continue to meet the needs of their respective communities.
The board Tuesday also will consider approving payment of the remaining $22,250 owed on the $45,000 study that looked at the operations of the departments.
The payment was on the board's May 21 agenda, but was tabled until Tuesday at the request of Commissioner Ray Mayo.
Mayo said a work session on the study was needed because commissioners had not had the time to review the 248-page document.
He also asked that an official with Pennsylvania-based Volunteer Fire Insurance Services that conducted the study attend the work session.
An agenda briefing will be held at 8 a.m. followed by the regular session at 9 a.m. Both will be held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse.
The work session is near the end of the agenda.
County officials have noted that some volunteer departments serve more densely populated and commercial areas that have larger tax bases to better support them. However, the smaller departments are expected to serve at the same level as the larger ones.
Between January and March 2012, a VFIS project team conducted a documentation review and site analysis of fire services provided to Wayne County.
It included interviews with local residents concerning county fire services.
The study also examined response times and whether the tone outs are being properly handled; line-item budgets for departments and possible ways to save money; whether volunteers have the equipment they need; and if the county is doing all that it needs to be doing.
The county has had a fire commission in the past. However, it has not been active since the 1990s.
As recommended by the study, a new fire commission would make policy recommendations to county commissioners regarding providing fire services to the public. It also would provide commissioners with a periodic report of its activities.
Membership would include a county commissioner appointed as fire commissioner by the commission chairman, the director of the Office of Emergency Services, the current and immediate past presidents of the Wayne County Firemen's Association and three at-large appointments made by commissioners.
The county fire marshal's office was included in the study, too.
The study recommends that the office's duties include coordinating fire inspections, fire investigations, overview of issues of coordination with the state fire marshal/department of insurance, public education program guidance, coordinating radio maintenance and pagers, serving as liaison to fire departments, standard operating guideline coordination, training services coordination, assisting in technology development and safety oversight of fire departments.