I agree with you that this debate has become childish in many forums and that can make both sides look shameful. As for your questions maybe I can give you a few examples (that I have personally witnessed) that would help you to reach your own informed opinion.
-This redistricting will not automatically lower your premiums if you already live in a County Fire district. For example, Ogden fire district (which has already been "consolidated" into the county) has ratings varying from 5-9, depending on how close you live to a fire hydrant. At least two of the volunteer departments in question maintain a score of 5 and a score of 6 throughout their ENTIRE district. (The lower the rating, the lower your premiums) Because they have enacted other ways to readily supply water to their trucks, the residents proximity to a hydrant is NOT a factor in their ISO ratings. (I can further explain these methods if you would like) If the county department would really like to raise these ratings throughout the ENTIRE county, it would be wiser for them to enact similar policies in their own department than to enact their current plan. The current plan is adding a consistant rating into an inconsistant one in hopes of making the whole look better to the community.
-As for the equipment in question, not only is it unfair to ask these volunteer departments to hand their resources over to the county but it is going against rules explicitly written in the charters of these nonprofit institutions.
-As for the contracts between the county and the volunteer departments...I think part of what has made this debate so emotionally charged is the implication that these volunteer departments have not shown more concern for their communities than for the "power" involved in being an indepandant institution. As I mentioned in a statement below, in the 90s there was a dispute between the county and one of the volunteer departments in which the county threatened to pull it's funding from the department. That department told the county that thanks to donations and careful financial planning they could continue to serve their district with or without such funding. It is offensive to these individuals to imply that their contracts are merely a means with which to recieve funding. They are more concerned that with the end of these contracts they will no longer be dispatched to calls through the county's 911 and dispatch system. Since this particular volunteer department has been in existance longer than the county dispatch system, they have a full understanding of how important the dispatch system is to providing quality service to their community. They will have to close their doors when calls are being dispatched to a county department instead of to them. They cease to be an institution not because of funding but because they can no longer provide a service to their community.
-You are absolutely right about the staffing issues. There are about 3 paid county firefighters in these stations at all times. That is enough to staff ONE truck and without our volunteers these stations would not function. Volunteers have been told that they can still volunteer in the county department. There are a couple reasons that the county volunteer program might not provide enough flexibility for these firefighters to participate. One, there are a few of these volunteers that are no longer physically capable to perform to the extent that younger firefighters can. The flexibility provided by the current system allows them the ability to drive trucks (one of them is not only the best driver I have ever seen but can find a fire scene with remarkable precision no matter how remote the location.), they can still work the pumping appartus (which allows more physically able members to focus on the task at hand), and they have experiences that training can not illustrate to younger members (There is one example that immediately comes to mind. Around the time that our area faced several hurricanes back to back, the county implemented a new radio system. In the middle of a hurricane the radio system failed. Not only were these members able to help their younger counterparts deal with the lack of communication but the department also had individuals IN-HOUSE experienced in and instrumental to dispatch commincations between the community, the fire department, and the county. For other volunteers the question is wheather or not the county will be able to provide flexibility in scheduling so that they can continue to maintain a delicate balance between work, volunteering, and (most importantly) family. By scheduling I am referring not only to duty but also to training.
-In reference to response time you are absolutely right but it is also important to remember that if the county is unable to buy or lease the buildings and equipmant from these volunteers, response times will most likely become worse for many! The disrticts are a 5 mile driving radius around the current stations. If the county has to outsource these resources (including their own paid firefighters) from other locations it is safe to assume that response times will increase.
-One last consideration, with the current system the volunteer fire departments use only $1 million of a $13 million budget. Their system is hardly as reliant on tax dollars as the current County Fire Department. At the very least donations from local citizens and buisnesses should not be minimalized as they have been in recent statements.
-THANK YOU for taking a rational stance and asking fair questions. "Mud slinging" is shameful at election time and has no buisness in this debate!
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