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Officials consider merging county, city fire departments

READ MORE: Officials consider merging county, city fire departments
WILMINGTON -- A key issue at Monday afternoon's New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting is the possible merger of city and county fire departments. Officials say right now a merger is nothing more than an idea. Commissioners were scheduled to begin discussing the idea just a few minutes ago, to see if it's worth moving forward. At this point merging the city and county fire departments is little more than county commissioner bill caster thinking out loud. New Hanover County Commissioner Bill Caster said, "This may after you study it may be too great a job or just may no even be necessarily to do. But we don't know that at this point so let's find out." His theory -- city and county fire departments would operate more efficiently if they came under one command. "I would just like to make sure it's a better system. More put in place in writing how we're going to handle and do this type of thing in the future," Caster said. One key issue is that the city of Wilmington's fire department is a class-2 fire insurance rating, meaning that department has far better resources than the rest of the county, which is class-5. Wilmington assistant fire Chief Ron Jordan says he's confident no one will allow the quality of the city's department to drop. Jordan said, "I wouldn't see us dropping our class-2 rating. I think maybe everything else may have to raise up." What that involves is one of many details that need to be examined. Jordan said, "For me to say it's all positive or it would be negative is purely premature at this point." Caster said, "There are a lot of unknowns, obviously, to be discussed here and the only way to resolve those is to sit down, bring them up, talk about them and see if there's any deal stoppers here that we can not move forward. If we can move forward, let's look at it talk about it." In addition to the Wilmington fire department, the county has seven others, two of which are volunteer. How all these different departments are going to come together is just one more important issue that officials will need to address.

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